April 24, 2020 By Allie Griffin
Mayor Bill de Blasio is pushing for a rent freeze for New York City’s one million rent-stabilized tenants.
The mayor is calling for a range of measures to assist New Yorkers unable to afford their rent amid the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdown. He is also urging the state to help by allowing tenants to use their security deposit to pay their rent.
“As we get to the first of each month, this question of how am I going to pay my rent is coming up for more and more New Yorkers,” de Blasio said at his daily briefing from City Hall today. “And people are struggling.”
He called on the city’s Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) to issue an immediate rent freeze. The RGB sets how much — by a percentage — landlords can hike the rent on rent-stabilized apartments each year.
“To me it’s abundantly clear we need a rent freeze,” he said. “The facts couldn’t be clearer — greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.”
Yesterday, the board released a report that said it was becoming more costly for landlords to operate rent stabilized buildings. The report said that rents for regulated apartments should increase to keep landlords’ net operating income stable. It suggested a 2.5 to 3.5 percent hike for one-year leases and a 3.3 to 6.75 percent for two-year leases.
De Blasio called the report “misleading” and said that it favored landlords over renters.
“The challenges that landlords are facing right now are real — I’m not belittling them — but they pale in comparison to the challenges that tenants are facing,” the mayor said.
He also asked the state government to help New Yorkers who are suddenly unable to pay their rent.
The state should allow renters to use their security deposit to cover this month’s rent as an immediate solution, de Blasio said.
“This is something the state can do quickly and easily and it makes so much sense,” he said, adding that the security deposits are sitting in escrow accounts currently unusable to either party.
De Blasio said the state should also allow tenants who are unable to pay their rent to defer payments.
“Let them defer the rent. If people don’t have any money, they don’t have money.”
The landlords and their tenants can then establish a repayment plan that each party can agree to, he said.
Lastly, de Blasio called on New York State to extend the eviction moratorium, which is set to expire in June. He said it should be extended to 60 days past the end of the crisis.
“The bottom line is tenants need more help,” de Blasio said.
Freezing the rent is just passing along the problem from the tenant to the landlord. It would takes years before the landlord can recoup that money plus legal fees chasing that tenant down for back rent. Between the stimulus payment and bonus unemployment that tenant that lost their job due to COVID should have plenty of money to cover rent payments for the next few months.