NYC Council Speaker Mark-Viverito to Call for a Rent Freeze For One Year Leases

NEW YORK – In testimony to be given before the Rent Guidelines Board, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will once again call for a rent freeze for one year leases. In addition, since a freeze is not on the table for two year leases, the Speaker will call for at most a .5% increase.

As Speaker Mark-Viverito’s testimony states: “New York City is a city of renters. According to the most recent Housing and Vacancy Survey, rental units comprise approximately 64% of the City’s housing stock. Further, rent stabilized units comprise 47% of the City’s rental stock. Affordable housing, including rent stabilized housing, allow our nurses, policemen, teachers, firefighters, social workers and construction workers, to continue to live in the City and to contribute critical services to the City. Unfortunately, rent stabilized households are spending approximately 36.4% of their income on rent, which means they are rent burdened. The vacancy rate for rent stabilized units is 2.12%, well below the citywide rental vacancy rate of 3.45%. The City is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis. Together, we need to make sure that our affordable housing stock is not only preserved, but that it also remains affordable. That is why, like last year, I am calling for a rent freeze for one-year leases. Regrettably, a rent freeze is not on the table for two-year leases, therefore I am calling on the Board to approve, at most, a 0.5% increase for two-year leases.”

Full text of the testimony is below:

Good afternoon members of the New York City Rent Guidelines Board.

I am Melissa Mark-Viverito, Speaker of the New York City Council and Council Member for the 8th District, which includes East Harlem and the South Bronx.

New York City is a city of renters. According to the most recent Housing and Vacancy Survey, rental units comprise approximately 64% of the City’s housing stock. Further, rent stabilized units comprise 47% of the City’s rental stock. Affordable housing, including rent stabilized housing, allow our nurses, policemen, teachers, firefighters, social workers and construction workers, to continue to live in the City and to contribute critical services to the City.

Unfortunately, rent stabilized households are spending approximately 36.4% of their income on rent, which means they are rent burdened. The vacancy rate for rent stabilized units is 2.12%, well below the citywide rental vacancy rate of 3.45%. The City is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis.

Together, we need to make sure that our affordable housing stock is not only preserved, but that it also remains affordable.

That is why, like last year, I am calling for a rent freeze for one-year leases. Regrettably, a rent freeze is not on the table for two-year leases, therefore I am calling on the Board to approve, at most, a 0.5% increase for two-year leases.

While I applaud the Board for approving a rent freeze for a one year lease and 2% rent increase for a two year lease last year, any rent increase this year, is too much of a burden for rent stabilized households.

The Board cannot protect landlords’ profit margins while the wages of our rent stabilized households remain stagnant. From 2010 to 2013, the median household income for rent stabilized households decreased .3% from $40,703 to $40,600. While the median household income decreased .3% from 2010 to 2013, from 2011 to 2014, the median contract rent for rent stabilized households increased approximately 6.3% from $1,129 to $1,200.

According to the Board’s most recent Income and Expense Study, from2013-2014 , landlords’ net operating income grew by 3.5%, the tenth consecutive year that their net operating income has increased. While operating costs for landlords have risen, they are still making a profit from our rent stabilized housing stock.

We are losing thousands of our rent stabilized apartments every year. In 2015 alone, 10,812 apartments left rent stabilization and 2,803 apartments entered the stabilization system, which means at least 8,009 housing units left rent stabilization. Further, since 1994, we have lost about 276,777 rent stabilized units. Therefore, it is critical that rent stabilized units – and the families living in such units – be protected.

I ask you to consider the predicament of our rent stabilized households and to vote for a justified rent freeze for one-year leases and a .5% increase for two-year leases this year.

I thank you for your time and attention and look forward to our continued efforts on behalf of the people of the City.

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