Vote Rent Freeze

Testimony by Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried
Before the New York City Rent Guidelines Board
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
My name is Richard N. Gottfried. I represent the 75th Assembly District in Manhattan, which includes the neighborhoods of Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton, Midtown, part of the Upper West Side, and Murray Hill. I regret that due to the legislative session in Albany, I am unable to testify today in person. The range of 2018 proposed increases recommended this year by the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) – .75% to 2.75% for one-year leases and 1.75% to 3.75% for two-year leases in rent-stabilized apartments and lofts – continues the long-standing policy of excessively favoring landlords. The RGB got well-earned praise for its historic vote to freeze one-year lease renewal increases for 2015 and 2016, but the 2018 preliminary vote is a return to previous wrong policy. The Community Service Society’s 2017 data analysis shows the 2014, 2015 and 2016 low lease increases have not corrected the problem of excessive hikes occurring in the Bloomberg era. According to CSS, rents are higher now than they would be if the board had issued guidelines in previous years reflecting actual landlord cost changes. The RGB should vote a rent freeze to redress years of unjustified rent hikes. Tenants were hit with burdensome increases between 2007 and 2013 as high as 7.75 and 8.5 percent for a two-year renewal, while unemployment rates soared during an economic downturn period. From 2005 to 2012, the median rent in New York City rose 11%; while household incomes rose at a low 2%. Currently one-third of households in New York City pay 50% or more of their income in rent therefore being severely rent burdened by Federal standards. Although the 2018 Income and Affordability Study reported a few positive economic indicators, the reality for the majority of rent regulated tenants is decades of wage stagnation. My constituents, many with Social Security as their only income, regularly reach out to my district office for help to stay in their rent-stabilized homes. The devastation they experience includes the real threat of becoming homeless. New York is now entering the ninth consecutive annual increase in the number of homeless with an average of 59,467 New Yorkers spending each night in a shelter. According to the Community Service Society report “Making the Rent,” the second-largest contributor to rising rents is lease renewal increases, accounting for 27 percent of the citywide total sources of rent increases, and 37 percent in low-income areas.