After years of increased rent and surging prices in many newly-gentrified neighborhoods, Mayor Bill de Blasio has appointed a new set of leaders to sit on the Rent Guidelines Board in an effort to stall — if not halt — rent increases for rent stabilized apartments.
In March, De Blasio appointed four new members including Shelia Garcia of the Community Action for Safe Apartments, which in February led a rally in the Bronx supporting 1,000 tenants against the management company Chestnut Holdings for not providing adequate heat or clean water to tenants. De Blasio also re-appointed Harvey Epstein, an associate director at the Urban Justice Center which litigates on behalf of renters.
With housing costs skyrocketing in areas of Queens and many of the poorer areas of West Jamaica like Richmond Hill and Ozone Park now being gentrified by young hipsters moving away from their handlebar-mustache hubs of Williamsburg or the Lower East Side, de Blasio has promised to create 200,000 affordable homes throughout the city over the next decade.
“Some people call it difficult,” de Blasio said recently, but he called the goal “as big and bold as we can possibly reach.”
On May 5, the board approved a proposal that would allow for a rent freeze on rent-stabilized apartments and a small increase for apartments with two-year leases, helping more than one million tenants.
“It is outrageous. It is unprecedented,” Jack Freund, executive vice president of the Rent Stabilization Board (RSB), told the Daily News the night of the board’s decision.
The next day, Freund went on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show arguing that landlords weren’t making profits and a rent freeze would only harm tenants.
But the RSB has always been at odds with a rent freeze. On its blog post last year, someone wrote, “Most property owners would need a rent increase as long as city taxes, oil, insurance and other operating costs continue to escalate.”
York Assistant Professor of Social Sciences Dr. Selena T. Rogers believes de Blasio’s plan makes sense, but doesn’t address problems for those who are already in untenable rent situations.
But prior to his election as mayor, de Blasio had conflicting views on rent increases. In an article published last May, the New York Post quoted a de Blasio spokesman speaking in favor of landlords. Later in the month, de Blasio clarified that the aide misspoke and he was, in actuality, more favorable to a rent freeze. During his eight years on the city council de Blasio annually took on negligent landlords with his “NYC’s Worst Landlords” watch list.
But creating more affordable housing isn’t sure to ease the problems with Jamaica residents, who are expecting their rent to rise as soon as the Greater Jamaica Development Company breaks ground on their new $225 million housing and retail plan at Sutphin Boulevard and Archer Ave.
“The fact that de Blasio is looking at Queens and other areas is good, but whether or not he stands by his words remains to be seen,” said Stanely Decastro, 44, a Physics major and a returning student at York college. “I’m for him trying to help the working class because they’re the ones who are never in a favorable situation as soon as landlords raise prices on tenants.”