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Politics: Nyc's Rent 'increase' Meant Landlord Losses

POLITICS: NYC’s rent ‘increase’ meant landlord losses

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The data is indisputable: Adjusting for inflation, the New York City Rent Guidelines Board in Mayor Adams’ first three years has advanced rent adjustments that are more than twice as bad for rent-stabilized buildings as the rent adjustments advanced during the eight years under Bill de Blasio. 

Last month, the RGB voted to allow rent increases of up to 2.75% for one-year leases and 5.25% for two-year leases. 

That means under the Adams RGB, rent adjustments have averaged 1.4 percentage points below inflation over the past three years.

Meanwhile, rent adjustments under de Blasio averaged 0.65 percentage points below inflation, according to the RGB’s calculations.

So while rent increases have been authorized in each of the past three years, the net effect on older rent-stabilized buildings, which provide the majority of affordable housing in the city, has been worse.

This data flies in the face of the narrative being pushed by Adams’ opponents, who have been shouting from the rooftops that the mayor is raising the rents.

We understand the frustrations that come with inflation: Our members have seen the cost of everything associated with building maintenance go up dramatically in the past three years, while rent increases fail to keep pace. 

Data may take a back seat to vibes in this day and age, but the operators of the largest swath of affordable housing in New York City can’t run their buildings on vibes.

If rents don’t increase with costs, maintenance is deferred — and buildings start to deteriorate.

The inconvenient truth is that the Adams administration has accelerated the defunding of older rent-stabilized buildings that started under de Blasio.

When rents were frozen in 2016, property owners weren’t happy — but their costs actually decreased that year, while inflation held slightly above zero.

So the RGB was justified in taking that unprecedented step.

Yet according to the data, the RGB’s June vote was much worse for property owners than the rent freeze was in 2016, because this year the rent increase was a full 1.05 percentage points below inflation.

From an owner’s perspective, balancing growing costs against revenues, this year’s increase is in effect a rent rollback.

Since inflation has increased by 23% over the past decade per RGB calculations — and rents have only increased by a cumulative 14% — income has been reduced by 9% from a landlord’s point of view.

The news media in this town perpetuates a myth that Adams is somehow a friend to real estate because he talks about balancing the needs of tenants and buildings. 

But the mayor’s rhetoric doesn’t pay the property taxes, insurance, water and sewer bills, or any of the mandated costs that the City Council has pushed onto property owners.

Under this mayor, property taxes — the biggest cost for rent-stabilized buildings — went up 2.8% just this year, while Adams’ Water Board approved a 9% increase. 

Yet last year, the RGB’s own data found an 8.5% rent increase would be necessary to prevent the deterioration of rent-stabilized buildings: The board raised rents 3%. 

This year the RGB’s data said a 4% rent increase was necessary, and the board raised rents 2.75%. 

The math is indisputable: Under Adams, the RGB has favored tenants more than property owners by keeping rent increases below inflation, and well below the amount needed to prevent rent-stabilized buildings from falling into disrepair. 

Apparently data doesn’t matter anymore — advocacy groups know that shouting the loudest and staging performative protests gets the necessary attention. 

Yet if elected officials changed the inequitable property-tax system that favors wealthy homeowners, cracked down on insurance redlining and gave affordable-housing providers a break on water and sewer costs, the RGB wouldn’t have to raise rents at all. 

As long as this false narrative around the RGB is perpetuated, renters will never get actual relief.

Jay Martin is executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program.

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