Tenants of New York City’s 1 million rent-stabilized apartments will see a rise in their rent this fall, despite concerns from tenant groups that COVID-related hardships are making those units unaffordable.
During its Wednesday night virtual meeting, the city Rent Guidelines Board approved a rent increase of 1.5% for one-year leases and a 2% increase for two-year leases in rent-stabilized apartments.
The decision, which passed via a 5-4 vote, will go into effect this October.
Additionally, the board agreed to a six-month rent freeze on one-year leases in rent-stabilized apartments to allow tenants to recover from financial setbacks during the pandemic.
Board member Alex Schwartz proposed that stipulation, citing that despite New York City’s progress in leveling its unemployment rate over the past year, that the city and its residents are still facing economic fallout from the pandemic.
Despite a downturn in unemployment from May 2020 to May 2021 from 20% to 11%, roughly 15% of Bronx residents are still unemployed, according to Schwartz.
“New York City has suffered over the past 15 or so months … and New York’s job loss as a percent of the total employment during the first year of the pandemic was more than twice the national decline,” he said. “As a result of employment and income loss, it’s estimated that about 20% or more of all renters fell behind at some point.”
The application portal for the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program opened on June 1.
The relief program comes from $2.4 billion in funding from the most recent federal stimulus package and approved was approved by the state Legislature in April.
However, New York is one of the last states in the nation to roll out its rent relief program.
On Wednesday, tenant advocacy groups pushed for a second rent freeze on all rent, noting that the pandemic’s effect on tenants’ working situation and the rollout of the state’s rent relief programs are still uncertain.
“I think that there’s an assumption that tenants can afford to pay $10, $30 at the cost of landlords continuing to make profits,” tenant member Sheila Garcia said. “We haven’t seen the total effect of the rent relief program, we haven’t seen the total effect [of the pandemic] on tenants.”
Leah Goodridge, a managing attorney for housing policy, phoned in during the meeting and said that the proposed rent hikes were making the city uninhabitable to New Yorkers who can’t afford its luxury buildings.