Tenants hit financially by COVID may be having trouble making rent, but the Rent Guidelines Board is seriously out of touch to think landlords aren’t hurting, too, and can bear another rent freeze.
Alas, the board looks set to vote Wednesday to ban any hikes in monthly charges for the city’s 1 million stabilized apartments.
That will worsen the pain for landlords already struggling to pay their bills when the lockdowns have left a quarter of all tenants paying no rent at all.
Under Mayor Bill de Blasio (who picks all the board’s members), one-year-lease rent hikes have been among the lowest in history, averaging just 0.87 percent; another freeze would be the third in seven years.
Meanwhile, the Legislature last year made it harder to evict renters and to return regulated units to the market.
To freeze rents, the board must ignore its own data showing a 3.7 percent bump in landlords’ costs and a 0.6 percent dip in their net income from 2017 to 2018, the first in 15 years.
And the move will ultimately harm tenants — because landlords will have to cut back on services to survive. Already, more and more buildings are falling into financial distress. A freeze, says Joe Strasburg of the landlord-repping Rent Stabilization Association, “stifles the rent stream needed to repair, maintain and preserve affordable housing and to provide jobs and revenue” to neighborhoods.
Ironically, many building owners are the very people de Blasio says he wants to help: mom-and-pop operators, immigrants, people of color. Yet since they aren’t as numerous as tenants, he has no qualms about squeezing them.
It’s despicable and foolish.
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