Wednesday, May 2, 2012

RGB Preliminary Vote: Read all about it!

There was a good crowd  at the Tenants General Assembly outside the Rent Guidelines Board's preliminary vote on May 1, 2012.  And it rent increases may be lower this year.

Check out the articles below from

(2) NY Post
(4) DNAinfo (first article), and DNAinfo (second article)
(5) NY 1
(6) Curbed


Rent Guidelines Board Approves Increases, Official Vote In June
Jimmy McMillan outside a Rent Guidelines Board meeting in 2008 
 As expected, the Rent Guidelines Board approved rent increases for rent-stabilized apartments in New York City. The board, in a 5-4 vote, okayed moving forward with 1.75 to 4 percent hikes for one-year leases and between 3.5 to 6.75 percent increases for two-year leases.

The final vote on June 21 will determine what the increase will ultimately be (last year's vote had 3.75% increases for 1-year-leases and 7.25% increases for 2-year leases), but there are three meetings before then if you want to have your say—it gets really rowdy!

‘Low’ rent hikes on horizon

By DAVID SEIFMAN City Hall Bureau Chief
Last Updated: 2:54 AM, May 2, 2012
Posted: 2:18 AM, May 2, 2012

The Rent Guidelines Board set the stage last night for the lowest increases in a decade.
In a swift, 34-minute meeting, the board voted 5-4 to approve preliminary rent hikes of 1.75 to 4 percent for new one-year leases and 3.5 to 6.75 percent for two-year renewals.

The range of increases was about 50 percent below last year’s and signaled that tenants in more than a million rent-stabilized apartments could be on the verge of the lowest increases since 2002, when rents went up by 2 and 4 percent.

Renters who had the misfortune of signing new leases last year were hit with 3.75 and 7.25 percent hikes.

Keeping with the theme of the day, about 200 tenants gathered outside Cooper Union to “occupy” the RGB and protest what they described as a sham vote in the historic building’s basement auditorium.

With the demonstrators otherwise occupied, the board rushed through its agenda without any pretense of a genuine discussion.

Fewer than 30 people were in the audience at that time, so the sustained catcalls and shouts that have become a staple of RGB meetings were missing.

As usual, tenant representatives suggested a total rent freeze. They pointed out that tenants are now shelling out 35.2 percent of their income on rent, up from 31.7 percent in 2008.

“These are the highest rent burdens ever recorded in New York City,” declared tenant rep Adriene Holder.

Landlord representatives came back with proposed increases of 5 and 9 percent, offering the argument that such a move would force elected officials to boost subsidies to those who can’t pay their rent bills.

“If elected officials won’t use their power to fix the problems, then they must be replaced,” asserted landlord rep Steve Schleider.

Both motions failed by 7-2.

Board Chairman Jonathan Kimmel then offered his own motion for the range of hikes that were adopted. The landlords and tenant reps all voted “no;” the five public members all voted “yes.”

Once the final raises are decided in June, they will affect leases that expire between Oct. 1, 2012 and Sept. 30, 2013.




Board Is Met With Jeers as It Recommends an Increase in Rents

By C. J. HUGHES
Published: May 1, 2012

A panel voted on Tuesday to recommend raising rents on rent-stabilized apartments in New York City by amounts comparable to those approved last year.

By a vote of 5 to 4 at Cooper Union’s Great Hall, the Rent Guidelines Boardapproved increases of 1.75 percent to 4 percent on one-year leases, and 3.5 percent to 6.75 percent increases on two-year leases.
The actual increases will be narrowed to a single percentage when the board votes again on June 21, after hearings on June 13 and 18, at which members of the public can testify.
Last year, the nine-member board, which is appointed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, approved increases of up to 3.75 percent on one-year leases and 7.25 percent on two-year leases. About one million apartments in the city are rent stabilized.
As in the past, protesters jeered from their seats during the vote, under the watchful eyes of police officers, who set up metal detectors at the front doors.
The meeting coincided with May Day protests by the Occupy Wall Street movement. Helicopters buzzed, nearby streets were closed, and a band with a tuba and drum played outside.
Some protesters at the board meeting carried a banner reading, “Tenants are the 99 percent,” while others shouted, “Greed” and “Shame on Bloomberg” while the board members spoke.
But the protesters’ ranks were thinner this year because of an Occupy march scheduled for around the same time on Broadway, said Larry Wood, a housing advocate.
Still, he promised, they would turn out in droves in June. “There will be a lot more theater for the next vote,” Mr. Wood said.
A version of this article appeared in print on May 2, 2012, on page A20 of the New York edition with the headline: Board Is Met With Jeers as It Recommends an Increase in Rents.

DNAINFO (1)

Rent Guidelines Board Proposes New Hikes Updated 5 hrs ago
May 2, 2012 8:48am | By Jill Colvin, DNAinfo Reporter/Producer


Protesters hissed at and booed members of the board, who rejected calls for a rent freeze. (DNAinfo/Jill Colvin)

COOPER UNION — The Rent Guidelines Board cast a preliminary vote Tuesday night to boost rents on more than 1 million rent-regulated apartments, despite pleas from tenants' groups for a full-on freeze.

The board voted 5-to-4 to set an increase range of between 1.75 and 4 percent on one-year leases and 3.5 percent to 6.75 percent for two-year leases. A final vote, which will determine the exact number, is set for late June. 

Unlike previous years, when hundreds of rowdy tenants drowned out board members with hisses and boos, Tuesday night’s discussions kicked off in near-silence, with only a handful of tenants filling Cooper Union’s near-empty Great Hall.

Instead, several dozen tenant activists and members of Occupy Wall Street set up outside, staging a demonstration as part of the May Day rallies taking place blocks away in Union Square.

But shortly before the board's final vote, the protesters burst into the auditorium, chanting  “Occupy! Shut it down!

New York is a tenants’ town!” as they marched.

They continued heckling board members, booing and shouting, “This is a sham!” as the members cast their votes.

Several other options had also been discussed.

Tenant member Brian Cheigh had suggested a 0 percent rent hike, arguing that tenants are suffering from a still-weak economy, and that stabilized tenants keep paying an ever-higher percentage of their incomes on rents.

“It is a very dire situation,” he said.

But owner representative Steven Schleider said that while the city needs more affordable housing, owners should not be forced to bear the burden when their costs are also going up, too, for more expensive heating oil and higher water and sewer rates.

He proposed an increase of 5 percent on one-year leases and 9 percent on two-year leases, in addition to a 1 percent supplement for oil-heated buildings and an additional charge for tenants who have lived in their buildings for six or more years.

“Are you kidding?” one tenant shouted in disbelief when the idea was proposed.

But while this year’s rent increase looks as though it will be less steep than last year, when the board voted 5-to-4 to increase one-year leases by 3.75 percent and two-year leases by 7.25 percent, rent-subsidized tenants said they just can’t bear to pay more.

“We can’t afford it! The economy is bad,” said subsidized tenant Gladys Wilson, 74, who said she lives on a fixed income in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and is already having trouble making ends meet.

“It’s hard. I can’t do other things,” she said. “Everything goes to my rent.”
HoracioMarmolenjos, 61, who lives in Washington Heights, said he lost his job performing house repairs about four months ago and is now struggling to support his family, including his three kids.

“It’s tough. Right now I’m unemployed, so it’s really hard [to pay the bills],” said Marmolenjos, who said he currently pays $750 a month in subsidized rent.

The board also voted to raise rents for hotels and temporary residences, like SROs, between 1 and 3.5 percent.

The board will now two public hearings: at 4:30 p.m. at the Repertory Theater of Hostos Community College at 450 Grand Concourse in the Bronx on June 13 and at 10 a.m. at Cooper Union on June 18.

The board is set to cast its final vote June 21 at 5:30 p.m.

The higher rents would kick in Oct. 1.



Rent Stabilized Tenants Prepare to Protest Hike Vote Tuesday Updated May 1, 2012 12:50pm
May 1, 2012 12:50pm | By Jill Colvin, DNAinfo Reporter/Producer
Tenant advocates waved homemade signs at the Rent Guidelines
Board's public session Monday at the Cooper Union
(DNAinfo/Patrick Hedlund)
NEW YORK — It's time to brace for a rent hike.

The city’s Rent Guidelines Board, which sets rates for the city’s one million rent-stabilized apartments, is set to cast its preliminary vote on increases Tuesday night.

The typically raucous hearings pit tenant groups against landlords as the board decides how much rents can legally climb in the coming year, based on owners' rising costs and other factors.

This year’s meetings are likely to be particularly rowdy with a large showing by Occupy Wall Street protesters, who are planning to "Occupy the RGB" as part of Tuesday's May Day demonstrations.

No rent-hike numbers have been formally proposed, but a report released by the board last month floated several possibilities ranging from 1.5 percent to 3.75 percent for one-year leases, and 2 percent to 6 percent for two year leases.

The rent board's executive director, Andrew McLaughlin, stressed that it's up to members to decide on final numbers and that numerous factors are taken into consideration, including tenants' ability to pay.

Last year, the board voted 5-to-4 to increase one-year leases by 3.75 percent and two-year leases by 7.25 percent, triggering jeers from tenants.

Jack Freund, executive vice president of the Rent Stabilization Association of N.Y.C., which represents property owners, said landlords are being forced to shoulder a raft of rising costs.

They include higher water and sewer charges, increased property taxes, and "unfunded government mandates," such as installing backflow-prevention devices on water pipes that can cost tens of thousands of dollars in larger buildings, he said.
"Somebody has got to foot the bill and it's property owners that are being asked to pay," he said.

The association is pushing for a hike of 5 percent for one-year leases and 9 percent for two-year leases, plus a bonus for oil-heated buildings, he said.

Tenants’ advocates say that's far too high.

Sam Stein, an organizer at the Chelsea-based New York State Tenants & Neighbors association, which is planning a protest ahead of the hearing, urged the board to resist a hike this year since he said the board routinely overestimates owners' costs.

In 2010, for example, he said the board projected an increase of 5.5 percent — yet costs ended up rising less than 1 percent.

"We think it’s time to correct that balance and start with a rent freeze," said Stein, adding that tenants continue to struggle with high unemployment and reduced hours.
"The vacancy rates continue to be at emergency levels. It’s very difficult for tenants to find alternative housing," he said.

After Tuesday's vote, the board will hold two public hearings on June 13 and June 18. The rent board is set to cast its final vote June 21. If a rent hike is approved, it would kick in on Oct. 1.

Tuesday's preliminary vote will take place at Cooper Union’s Great Hall at 7 E. 7th St. at 5:30 p.m.



Rent Guidelines Board Approves Range For Rent Hikes
By: Natasha Ghoneim
About a million city rent-regulated apartment dwellers are expected to pay higher rents this fall, after the Rent Guidelines Board approved at a Tuesday vote in Cooper Union a preliminary hike range.
The proposed rent hikes are 1.75 to 4 percent for one-year leases and between 3.5 to 6.75 percent for two-year leases. Any new increases will affect leases signed or renewed starting October 1.
Board members claimed they tried to strike a middle ground on increases for rent stabilized apartments.
Tenants rights groups and Occupy Wall Street demonstrators rallied outside Cooper Union, saying they represented what they call the "rights of the 99 percent."
They say the board, which has members allied with landlords, tenants, and the public, is just a rubber stamp for Mayor Michael Bloomberg's policies.
However, advocates for property owners said the board did not take into account rising property taxes, water and sewer rates and the increasing price of oil.
Three more public hearing will be held before the board's final vote on June 21.
Last year, the board hiked rents 3.75 percent on one-year leases and 7.25 percent on two-year leases.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012, by Sara Polsky
The Rent Guidelines Board—a nine-member panel that sets annual rent increases on rent-stabilized apartments—met last night to vote on preliminary numbers, and the proceedings went so much according to plan that reading the coverage feels kinda like pressing replay. The board voted for rent hikes of between 1.75 and 4 percent on new one-year leases, according to the Post, and increases of between 3.5 percent and 6.75 percent for two-year renewal leases. As expected, these increases are about 50 percent below last year's.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Rent Guidelines Board meeting without protests from both tenant and landlord reps. The tenant reps made their usual bid for a complete rent freeze, with the argument that tenants are paying the highest ever percentage of their incomes on rent. Landlord reps asked for 5 and 9 percent rent hikes. As has happened for the last 40+ years, both requests were voted down by significant margins and the landlord and tenant representatives made up the no votes in the 5-4 decision on the preliminary hikes. The final numbers will be set in June.

Renters Outraged: RGB Votes To Raise Rents Again
By Kim Velsey 10:35am
Surprise! The rent is going up again next year.
In a move that surprised no one, the Rent Guidelines Board cast a preliminary vote to allow rent increases between 1.75 and 4 percent for one-year leases and 3.5 to 6.75 percent for two-year leases, reports The New York Times.

The ranges will be narrowed to a single percent increase when the board takes its final vote on June 21. Last year the board approved a 3.75 percent increase for a one-year lease and a 7.25 percent increase for a two-year lease.

Of course, these increases apply only to the city’s one million rent-stabilized apartments. If you number among the 53 percent of New Yorkers who live in a market-rate apartment, you’re basically screwed.
But while the Rent Guidelines Board has been approving rent increases of about 3 percent pretty much without fail every year, some people thought things might be different this year. Just last week the board set the benchmark used to determine rent increases—the rise in landlords’ operating costs—at 2.8 percent. It was the lowest number in decades, and it gave the many rent-regulated tenants a warm feeling so rarely associated with New York apartments.
Chalk it up too much hope or not enough, but the crowd did not take the news of the increase well.
“As in the past, protesters jeered from their seats during the vote, under the watchful eyes of police officers, who set up metal detectors at the front doors,” writes The Times.

The crowd was smaller than it normally is, with tenants having to chose between the vote and an Occupy Wall Street march on Broadway scheduled for roughly the same time. Nevertheless, a few Occupy protestors did straggle into Cooper Union’s Great Hall to offer their support, shouting things like “Greed” and “Shame on Bloomberg.”
Still, it’s early in the game, and the board’s final number could certainly come in on the lower end of the range. Also, the “kangaroo court” will hold public hearings on June 13 and 18, for whatever that’s worth.

kvelsey@observer.com