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Tenants rally against ‘unfair’ increases on rent-stabilized apartments, demand freeze

Advocates say the Rent Guidelines Board also needs to do a better job listening to residents.

Rent-stabilized tenants and housing advocates call for a

Rent-stabilized tenants and housing advocates call for a rent freeze and better behavior from the board members of the Rent Guidelines Board outside of the oversight agency's first meeting of the year at the Manhattan Municipal Hall located at One Centre St. on Thursday, March 8, 2018. Photo Credit: Yeraldi Perez

Tenants and housing advocates rallied for a price freeze on rent-stabilized apartments outside the year’s first meeting of the city Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) Thursday, according to the Rent Justice Coalition.

“Today, we are gathering to demand a rent freeze but also ask the board to let tenants express ourselves and feel heard,” tenant Lucy Arroyo said in a statement. “Every year we go through the same process and this is one of the only times we have a chance to share our experiences.”

Currently, rent-stabilized tenants pay a third or more of their incomes in rent, and the percentage markedly rises for low-income families, according to the coalition.

“And while tenants face rising costs, landlords have been raking in more money and paying less for expenses,” a statement from the coalition added.

However, Sheila Garcia, an RGB tenant member and a part of the Rent Justice Coalition, said there’s no need to keep protecting landlords’ revenues, referencing the 2018 Income and Expense Study released today by RGB.

Tenants are still reeling from the “unfair” and “excessive” rent increases from the years of the Bloomberg administration, despite two freezes over the past four years, according to the coalition, which is demanding rent stays flat.

“We need to maintain affordability, especially in the Bronx where people are paying more than 50 percent of their incomes in rent,” Garcia said.

The RGB, an oversight agency comprised of mayoral appointees that determines increases for rent-stabilized apartments, will vote on rent guidelines in June for the term beginning Oct. 1 and ending Sept. 30, 2019.

In addition, council members have been calling for a rollback of rent, to make up for the years of increases that have left New Yorkers dealing with housing challenges.

“We must institute a rollback for one- and two-year rent-stabilized leases,” Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal (D-Flushing) said, adding that 43 percent of New Yorkers in homeless shelters come from rent-stabilized apartments. “But, as a city, we also have a fundamental duty to ensure that New Yorkers can remain in their homes.”

The RGB also needs to extend the time it allots tenants for their testimonies from two to three minutes, and extend the overall time set aside for hearings to give more disgruntled tenants the opportunity to come forward, Garcia said.

“We are trying to make sure that the RGB is committed to having interpretation at every hearing, that hearings in all the outer boroughs are continuing to happen and that they are accessible to the people from the community without having massive police presence,” Garcia said.

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