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City votes to raise rents for thousands

The Rent Guidelines Board, the city regulatory agency that decides the prices of rent-stabilized units, preliminarily voted to increase rents in their largest single-year jump in nearly 10 years. The final vote will be held on June 21.

The RGB voted to increase rents by 2-4 percent for one-year leases and 4-6 percent for two-year leases in a 5-4 vote on Thursday. The last time the RGB raised rents by over 3 percent was in 2014; that year one-year leases increased by 4 percent while two-year leases increased by 7.75 percent.

A 2017 report from the Housing and Preservation Department found that Brooklyn comprises nearly 30 percent of the city’s rent-stabilized units; meaning that up to nearly 275,000 units in Kings County could be facing increases.

The jump in rents marks a shift from the freezes and modest increases the RGB pursued under previous Mayor DeBlasio’s more tenant-friendly board. Mayor Adams appointed a landlord lawyer and a self-proclaimed rent control skeptic to the board last month, as City Limits reported.

The RGB is comprised of nine different members who are all appointed by the mayor. Two seats are designated for tenant interests, two others to represent owners, while the other five are supposed to represent the general public.

“Inflation is hurting property owners as the cost of providing safe, clean, affordable housing continues to rise. Our analysis of the data is that an increase of rents it keeps up with inflation and rising property taxes is necessary to protect the housing stock,” said Robert Ehlrich, one of the owner representatives. Ehrlich continued to cite RGB research that found that 1/3 of rent-stabilized buildings are spending 70 percent of operating income on costs.

Sheila Garcia, one of the tenant representatives called for rent freezes and rent rollbacks on apartments.

“This is what the language of the statute reads. action is necessary to prevent exactions of unjust, unreasonable, and oppressive rents and rental agreements. And to forestall profiteering speculation and other disruptive practices tending to produce threats to the public health, safety, and general welfare. It goes on to say that this is because many, many owners, and I quote, ‘were demanding exorbitant and unconscionable rent increases.’ These are the underpinnings of why the RGB exists,” said Adán Soltren, the other tenant member of the board.

The New York City Council Progressive Caucus, which represents the majority of the council, denounced the rent hikes in a statement.

“We are at a loss as to why the recommended increases only have the landlord in mind, devised so as to maintain landlords’ net operating income at constant levels. Why should the maintenance of landlord income be privileged over the tenants’ ability to keep up with cost of living increases? Tenants have not experienced wage or salary increases of 9%, are paying more for everything due to inflation, and unemployment in the City remains nearly double the national average,” the statement reads.

The caucus also called for an immediate rent rollback to stave off evictions and that the board hold at least five public hearings, one in each borough. There are only two scheduled public hearings before the final vote in June, currently scheduled on the RGB website.

Mayor Adams, who is a landlord himself, refused to take a stance on the floated hike in order to maintain the independence on the board. Adams emphasized the responsibility of his appointed positions to strike the balance between landlords and what Mayor Adams described as small time renters.

The progressive caucus dismissed the notion of ‘mom-and-pop’ landlords being the primary provider of rent-regulated apartments. Their statement cited a 2017 analysis of Housing Preservation and Development data released by Justfix.nyc, a non profit organization that releases online tools for the housing movement. The report found that 91 percent of “mom-and-pop” landlords, defined as only owning one building by the Progressive Caucasus, do not own buildings with rent-regulated units and that 70 percent of landlords who own rent-regulated units own six or more buildings.

Condo at One Boerum Place rented for $27K

Just when you think Brooklyn can’t get anymore expensive, the borough still manages to surprise you.
A wealthy renter recently paid a $27,000 per-month lease for a four-bedroom apartment penthouse on the top floor of One Boerum Place in Downtown Brooklyn.
The name of the renter is not public, but they will enjoy stunning views of Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn from the heights of the new 96-story apartment building. The unit boasts 3,100 square feet of indoor space and 2,000 square feet of outdoor patio space.
One Boerum Place offers residents access to an indoor pool, sauna, two-story gym, and rooftop lounge as well.
The $27,000 a month price tag falls just short of the honor of highest ever monthly lease in Brooklyn’s history. That title goes to 149 Clinton Street, a townhouse in the heart of Brooklyn Heights that is currently being rented for $30,000 a month.
A lottery for the 42 affordable units at Boerum Hill was open to residents making up to 130 percent of the area median income (AMI), ranging in eligible income from $68,572 to $167,570. The cheapest units available rented for $2,500 per month.
Two Blue Slip, a 39-story residential tower that is part of the ongoing Greenpoint Landing development, recently opened a lottery for its 127 affordable units. Rents started at $2,370 and went as high as $3,530.
Assemblywoman Emily Gallagher took to Twitter to express her dissatisfaction with the lottery.
“More than 80 percent of jobs in Brooklyn pay less than the minimum eligible salary ($81,258/year) to qualify for these units,” Gallagher wrote.
She specifically called out the 421-a property tax exemption policy,which gives real-estate developers decades worth of tax breaks for building new residential buildings where 10 to 15 percent of the units are set aside as affordable.
“Neoliberal housing policy is giving massive public subsidies to private developers so they submit a handful of units few can afford into a lottery where the chance of winning is 0.1689 percent,” Gallagher continued. “421-a is a bad joke.”

Should I rent or buy?

Q: I am told that rents are still very low, and I should rent instead of buying. Is this true?
A: While rents are slightly lower than they were pre-pandemic, consider that unless you’re in a rent-stabilized apartment, when you renew your lease, if the rental market has improved, the landlord will likely raise your rent to market price.
Couple that with the fact that prices have not fully recovered on sales, and this might be the ideal time to become a homeowner. Of course, if you are planning to move in a short period—say one to three years—then I would recommend a rental.
Q: Someone mentioned that as an owner, I can get a rebate from the government. What is this about, and does it also apply to a coop owner?
A: STAR is the School Tax Relief Program put in place by New York State as a rebate for homeowners. And yes, it does apply to cooperative and condominium owners as well.
In order to benefit from this, the unit must be your primary residence. You are required to fill out an application form and submit it to the NY State Tax Authority.
There is also an enhanced STAR rebate for those over 65 whose income is below $90,500. Note that you can only benefit from one STAR rebate regardless of how many properties you own, and there are some restrictions. Visit www.tax.ny.gov to learn more.

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