NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The Rent Guidelines Board passed a preliminary first vote on one-year and two-year leases for rent-stabilized apartments in New York City.
The preliminary vote passed 5-4 on Tuesday night, advancing a range of proposed rent hikes ahead of a final vote scheduled for June 21.
The potential adjustment could increase rent 2-5% for one-year leases and 4-7% for two-year leases.
Landlords and tenant advocates increased the pressure on the Rent Guidelines Board ahead of the vote on Tuesday night, and at one point, tenants and organizers even jumped onto the stage and protested around the table where the board members presided.
"The pandemic had us down for so long," tenant Claristine Gardner said. "How could we afford our increase right now? Most of us don't have no jobs."
Joining the civil disobedience was New York City Councilmember Sandy Nurse, who says her landlord is trying to push her rent-stabilized apartment to market value.
"Tonight is about sending a message that New York City tenants cannot take it anymore," she said.
There are more than a million rent-controlled and rent-stabilized apartments in the city.
Despite the deep divide between tenants and landlords, they actually have a lot in common. Both are feeling the sting of inflation. Both suffered during COVID: from landlords not receiving full rent to tenants not working. And on the board itself, those tenants and those representing landlords all voted against the proposed increases.
Clearly one side found the hikes too high, while the other found it too low.
Landlords say they need the money to deal with the rising cost of building repairs, property taxes, and energy bills.
"It's almost impossible to maintain a building as it should be, a safe sound building as it should be, and give the tenants what they deserve," said landlord Michael Laub.
"Property taxes, utility bills, insurance premiums. All of these must be paid all the time. They're not optional," said Michael Tobman of the Rent Stabilization Landlord Association.
The average household income for rent-stabilized tenants is $44,000, according to city estimates, making any kind of rent hike tough to swallow.
"It would be a hard hit financially, mentally, emotionally and physically," said tenant Redoneva Andrews.
But Leah Goodridge, a former member of the Rent Guidelines Board, said an increase of this magnitude makes even less sense to struggling tenants already in the middle of a housing crisis. The average rent for a New York City studio apartment is $3,400.
"I do understand the plight of landlords, but we also have to remember at the end of the day, this is a business for landlords and when we're talking about New York tenants, this is an issue of a public health crisis," Goodridge said.
The mayor's office says the nine-member board, appointed by Mayor Eric Adams, is looking at a number of factors -- not just the estimated 15.75% hike to keep landlords whole, but also what tenants are dealing with.
"No recommended or adopted increase has ever come close to this number, and this year will be no different," the mayor's office said in a statement.
Last year, the board ultimately voted to raise rents on one-year leases by 3.25% and on two-year leases by 5%.
That was the highest increase for rent-stabilized apartments in almost a decade.
Ultimately, the decision will impact nearly 2 million New Yorkers.
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