Rent hikes discussed at town hall

Schweizer speaks at the town hall.
Photo by Silvio Pacifico

A tenant town hall was held in response to a wave of rent hikes in the Bronx.

On Thursday, June 2, the Bronx Park East Community Association, along with tenant advocacy group Metropolitan Council, Real Rent Reform (R3) and Bronx housing advocacy group Neighborhood Initiative Development Corporation, hosted a tenant town hall in True Witness Shiloh Apostolic Church, where Bronx residents expressed their opinions regarding recent rent increases on rent-stabilized and preferential rent tenants.

At the meeting tenants learned that thousands of the borough’s apartments are being hit with $300 to $800 per month rent increases.

Areas in the Bronx that have seen the biggest jumps in rent include Pelham Parkway, Morris Park, Castle Hill and Soundview.

These huge rent increases often happen when a building’s management rescinds a tenant’s preferential rent.

A preferrential rent is a below-market rent. It is lower than the legal regulated rent that the property owner could lawfully collect.

There is nothing that tenants can do about these sudden rent hikes due to the state’s ‘Preferential Rent’ Law, where preferential rents can be revoked whenever a lease is renewed and the landlord can start collecting the higher legal regulated rent.

This law gives tenants two options – either pay more for the apartment or move out.

Prior to 2003, before the law was changed, preferential rent was more stable and the monthly legal rent for tenants stayed consistent, unless in unusual circumstances.

Additionally, there’s a push to get rid of landlord’s vacancy/eviction bonuses, which allows landlords to increase the rents in their buildings by 20% when an apartment turns over.

“These rent increases need to stop in order for long-term residents like us to continue living in this area,” said Keith Davis, a resident of Allerton for over 25 years, a member of BPECA and former employee of the Beth Abraham facility, which was recently sold from CenterLight Health Care to Centers Health Care. “My monthly rent has increased by more than $400 ever since my lease expired. The rent is too damn high!”

“It’s very disturbing,” said Angela Roker, another Allerton resident, referring to the rent hikes. “The residents of this area have worked too hard for too long and they are still thrown under the bus..”

“Residents used to be safe – their rents were protected, so they didn’t have to worry about monthly rent increases once their leases expired,” said Raphael Schweizer, chairman of BPECA.

Assembly Bill A3809a/Senate Bill S2828b, which will prohibit landlords from taking away the preferential rent during the time that a tenant lives in the apartment, has been co-sponsored by senators Gustavo Rivera and Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., and assembly members Latoya Joyner, Victor Pichardo, Luis Sepulveda, Jose Rivera and Marcos Crespo.

Reach Reporter Steven Goodstein at (718) 260-4599. E-mail him at sgoodstein@cnglocal.com.
Tenant Andrew Laiosa.
Photo by Silvio Pacifico

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