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Thread: City Rent Board Approves Increases

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    Default City Rent Board Approves Increases

    June 18, 2004

    City Rent Board Approves Increases Up to 6.5 Percent

    By DAVID W. CHEN

    In a decision that satisfied neither tenants nor landlords, the New York City Rent Guidelines Board voted last night to raise rents by up to 6.5 percent on the city's one million rent stabilized apartments.

    It was the second consecutive year that the board approved increases that tenant groups warned would be unduly burdensome, but that landlord advocates called woefully insufficient to defray rising costs.

    By a 6 to 3 vote, the board authorized increases of 3 percent for one-year leases, and 6 percent for two-year leases for tenants who pay for their heat and hot water, and 3.5 percent and 6.5 percent for those who do not. That followed last year's increases of up to 7.5 percent, which were the biggest since 1989.

    In separate votes, the board froze rents on residential hotels for one-year leases, the only kind offered. For lofts, the board approved increases of 2.5 percent for one-year leases, and 5.5 for two-year leases. For all the categories, the increases apply to leases that are renewed from Oct. 1 of this year through Sept. 30, 2005.

    In most years, there is little drama inherent in the board's final vote, because it rarely deviates from a preliminary vote a month earlier. But this year was different, because the board opted during its preliminary vote on May 10 not to offer specific recommendations, but rather a range of increases - 3 percent to 5.5 percent for one-year leases on stabilized apartments, and 5.5 percent to 7.5 percent for two-year ones.

    The tactic was the idea of Marvin Markus, the board's chairman, and it upset many tenants as well as some landlords. But at the end of the two-and-a-half-hour session last night at Cooper Union, Mr. Markus defended the approach.

    "We ended up in the range and I think the process worked," Mr. Markus said.

    The annual vote is watched closely because of the sheer numbers of those affected, and the fact that few places around the country have anything remotely similar to the city's rent-stabilized system.

    Of the city's three million housing units, about two million are rentals. Of those, about one million are stabilized and subject to the rates set by the board.

    Since it was established in 1968 to review rent rates annually for the city's stabilized units, the board has never authorized a rent decrease or freeze. During the high-inflation era of the late 1970's and early 80's, the board sometimes approved increases of up to 14 percent for two-year leases. But for most of the last decade, rents have gone up a few percentage points, in keeping with low inflation and, to a lesser degree, with annual surveys measuring landlord costs and incomes.

    In 2002, for instance, the board ratified increases of 2 percent for one-year leases and 4 percent for two-year leases, even though the Price Index of Operating Costs, a summary of landlord expenses like utilities and labor, dropped for the first time. Last year, the board authorized increases that were dwarfed by a 16.9 percent jump in the index, the biggest since 1980.

    This year, landlord costs grew at a much slower pace - 6.9 percent. Even so, landlords said they were concerned about the possible impact of the city's new lead paint law.

    The law, which regulates the removal of lead-paint hazards, including dust, from apartments built before 1960, takes effect in August. City officials and landlord groups contended that the cost could be millions of dollars, but tenant groups said that figure was overblown.

    If nothing else, the board's annual vote can always be counted on to attract a raucous and polarized audience. Even before a proposal was made to increase rent by up to 9 percent, the crowd became so unruly, shouting "Shame on you," and "We say no," that Mr. Markus ordered the board to recess for several minutes.

    The 9 percent proposal failed, as did a proposal by a tenant representative to freeze rents. Then came the proposal suggested by Mr. Markus, which eventually passed.

    Tenants said they found the increases outrageous. "I think it's really a reflection of the people that the mayor has appointed," said Michael McKee, associate director of Tenants and Neighbors, a statewide advocacy group. "They just don't get it: what real people go through to make ends meet in this city. They're conducting an auction, that's all this is."

    Landlords were equally angry. "It's a disgrace when the process meant to stabilize housing is turned into a political circus," said Andrew Hoffman, president of Community Housing Improvement Program, a landlord group. "This is going to lead to widespread abandonment."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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    RENTS TAKE A HIKE AGAIN: 3.5% & 6.5%


    By DAVID SEIFMAN
    June 18, 2004

    Tenants in more than a million rent-stabilized apartments were hit last night with rent hikes of 31/2 and 61/2 percent for new one- and two-year leases.

    The Rent Guidelines Board approved the increases in a 6-3 vote during a boisterous 21/2-hour meeting that was so out of control at one point that chairman Marvin Markus was forced to call a 20-minute recess.

    But constant screams and catcalls by tenants, who outnumbered landlords 4 to 1 in the 200-person audience, had no impact on the outcome.

    After rejecting an appeal for no increase from tenant representatives and voting down landlords' demand for 6 and 9 percent boosts, a majority of board members quickly adopted Markus' proposal for 31/2 and 61/2 percent hikes.

    "This is unbelievable," protested Patrick Markee of the Coalition for the Homeless.

    "You're Bloomberg's stooges!" shouted tenant leader Michael McKee.

    He charged that Markus had engineered a wider spread than usual between the one- and two-year leases.

    "What they're trying to do is to force people to take one-year leases so in the long run they get hit with more of the rent increase," said McKee.

    Markus conceded the board was trying to even the playing field.

    "The board was concerned about the relatively small gaps [between one- and two-year leases]," he said.

    "It led to the situation where people who could constantly take the two-year lease being way out of line with some of the other tenants in their building."

    Last year, the board imposed a similar three-point spread between one- and two-year leases 4.5 percent for one year and 7.5 percent for two years.

    Over the last two years, tenants have absorbed the largest back-to-back rent increases since 1990-91, when the rent board imposed hikes of 4.5 and 7 percent, followed by 4 and 6.5 percent.

    Landlords complained the higher rents voted last night were inadequate, considering that, by their calculation, their costs have skyrocketed 24 percent in 24 months.

    "What did the owners get over two years? Eight percent?" asked Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 landlords.

    "The affordable-housing market is going to be at greater risk because of tonight's vote."

    Board member Betty Phillips Adams expressed frustration that the board can't distinguish between small landlords having trouble making ends meet and large ones reaping huge profits.

    "It's rough justice," said Markus afterward.

    "That is the rent-stabilization system."

    The latest hikes affect leases that expire between Oct. 1 of this year and Sept. 30, 2005.

    About 30,000 tenants who supply their own heat got a small break.

    Their rent hikes were cut half a percentage point, to 3 and 6 percent.

    Insiders say Mayor Bloomberg has taken a largely hands-off approach to the rent hikes, unlike predecessors who frequently dictated the final figures from City Hall.

    But that didn't stop one furious tenant from approaching Markus after the vote at Cooper Union.

    "You tell the mayor he's out next year," the tenant told Markus.

    "I guarantee it. Tell him I said so."


    Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc.

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    Landlords pushing for 10.5% rent hikes


    By LISA L. COLANGELO
    DAILY NEWS CITY HALL BUREAU

    The stakes are high tonight at the start of the annual battle over rents for the city's 1 million stabilized apartments - with owners pressing to jack up prices by as much as 10.5%.

    Landlord groups, blaming out-of-control oil costs, said yesterday they need increases of at least 6.5% for one-year leases and 10.5% for two-year leases.

    Tenant leaders quickly warned that big rent hikes will push people out of the scarce affordable housing left in the city.

    "The working class and the working middle class are in danger of being lost," said Ed Ott of the New York City Central Labor Council. "It's too expensive for them to get a foothold."

    Rents on the nearly 1 million rent-stabilized units increase every year based on limits set by the Rent Guidelines Board.

    The board, whose members are appointed by Mayor Bloomberg, takes its first vote on the new increases tonight.

    Last year, it approved hikes of 3.5% onone-year leases and 6.5% on two-year leases. In 2003, the board signed off on increases of 4.5% for one-year leases and7.5% for two-year leases.

    "Rents have failed to keep up with operating costs," said Jack Freund of the landlords' Rent Stabilization Association. "I don't think anybody believes the cost of oil is going to fall."

    The board's staff released a study yesterday that showed landlord expenses increased by 12.6% as income rose by 6.3% in 2003.

    Another board report unveiled last month showed landlord costs on certain items, including fuel and labor, this year rose 5.8% - the lowest in three years.


    Originally published on May 3, 2005

    All contents 2005 Daily News, L.P.

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    May 4, 2005

    Rent board approves hikes up to 7 percent


    NEW YORK (AP) -- In a preliminary vote, the New York City Rent Guidelines board approved rent increases of up to 7 percent for the city's rent-stabilized apartments.

    For the second year in a row, the board on Tuesday set a range of increases within which the final figures - to be determined June 21 - would be selected. For one-year leases, landlords could increase rents between 2 and 4.5 percent, while rent for two-year leases could rise between 4 and 7 percent.

    Last year, the board passed hikes of up to 6.5 percent. In 2003, it approved hikes of up to 7.5 percent, the largest rise since 1989.

    There are more than 1 million rent-stabilized apartments in New York City.


    2005 The Associated Press.

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