2011-07-06 / Editorials

New Rent Hikes Put Tenants, Landlords In Same Bind

Last Monday night, the Rent Guidelines Board by a vote of five to four raised rents on some 1.1 million apartments in New York City by 3.75 percent for one-year renewals and 7.25 percent for two-year leases. The rent increases will go into effect October and are the highest in several years.

We sympathize with the apartment dwellers who attended the June 20 Rent Guidelines Board hearings at Cooper Union in Manhattan to protest the imminent rent hikes. This is not an easy time for the middle and working class in New York City. Data released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as reported by Crain’s Daily Alert shows that wages here are not growing as much as in the rest of the country. While jobs may have been added, many of them are in sectors where relatively low-paying positions are the norm. High-paying jobs in the manufacturing and financial sectors have not shown comparable growth. Under these circumstances, a rent increase will make a sizable dent in many family budgets.

Some tenant representatives at the Rent Guidelines Board meeting called for a freeze on rents. Even as we sympathize with our fellow New Yorkers who are facing some serious belttightening under the new increases, we cannot in all conscience agree with no increases at all. From what we know about it, owning a rental building in New York City is not an easy way to make a living. Most property owners who are landlords in New York City are subject to stringent rules governing how much they can charge for rents. Under the city’s rent stabilization law, renewed last week by the state legislature, in order to legally destabilize an apartment’s rent, landlords will first have to legally raise rents on them to $2,500 a month, instead of the original $2,000. Some 1,500 apartments will remain under regulated rent every year under the new regulations. The Rent Guidelines Board chose not to impose a one percent surcharge for oil-heated buildings that would have compensated owners for rising prices. Landlords must make necessary repairs and upkeep to their buildings in order to make them desirable places where respectable, responsible tenants—the only kind we know—want to live and raise their families. They face increasing property taxes, water and electricity rates and salaries for the superintendents and porters they must hire in order to keep their buildings habitable. They, like their tenants, are often caught between a rock and a hard place in their simple desire to make a living, provide a service and contribute to a satisfactory quality of life in New York City.

Especially in our own borough of Queens, New York City has always been a bastion of stability and security for the families who call it home. Stable families with steady incomes that enable them to find and remain in well-kept, properly maintained apartments and houses are the true backbone of New York City, as are landlords who derive a reasonable income from their rental properties that enable them in turn to raise their families and contribute to the city’s economy.

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