RGB approves 2% (for 1 yr) and 4% (for 2 yr) rent increases for Rent Stab tenants

New York Daily News
by Erin Durkin
June 21, 2012

Tenants and landlords alike were fuming Thursday when a city board approved rent increases for rent stabilized apartments of 2% for one-year leases and 4% for two-year leases. Drowned out by a raucous crowd chanting, “The rent is too damn high!” and “Zero percent!” the Rent Guidelines Board split the difference between landlords’ reps, who wanted 5% and 9% increases, and tenants’ reps, who wanted a rent freeze. The hikes apply to 1 million rent stabilized city apartments.

“This is just devastating. It’s just so much that these households can’t continue to bear,” said Adriene Holder, a tenant representative on the panel, citing a Daily News report that low-income tenants spend almost half their income on rent. Tenants have argued for years that the economic downturn justifies a rent freeze, but the board has passed at least a modest hike each year. Last year, they hiked rents by 3.75% for one year leases and 7.25% for two year leases.

Tenants said that even though this year’s increase was smaller, the constant hikes add up. “They’re gouging us every year,” said Maxine Zeifman, 84, who said the rent on her upper East Side apartment has almost quadrupled in the four decades she has lived there. “They don't need an increase.” But landlords said the hike won’t come close to covering the increased real estate taxes and water bills they have to pay. “It’s absurdly low,” said Jimmy Silber, 56, who owns a 100-unit apartment building in Greenwich Village which his grandfather built in the 1930s and where he also lives. “Almost all my rent regulated tenants are paying less than it costs me to run the building.”

Joe Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, called it “another disappointing year.” He noted property taxes are up 7.5%. “The ones who are really bearing the brunt of it are the small property owners,” he said. Board chairman Jonathan Kimmel said his panel couldn’t be responsible for tenants’ economic woes or landlords’ increased costs. “This board does not have the power to cure all the ills of the system,” Kimmel said.