‘I don’t know if I’ll have enough for the bills, the rent, the food’
CARROLL GARDENS — Alice Apolinaris was not celebrating June 29, the first day of her retirement after 25 years as a public school paraprofessional.
She stepped out of her 3rd Street apartment in Carroll Gardens for a walk, which is how she deals with stress. Lately, his anxiety has been growing.
A week earlier, the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB), which regulates rent-stabilized housing in the five boroughs, voted 5-4 to allow the first major rate hikes in eight years. From October 1, landlords can increase rents by up to 3.25% for one-year leases and up to 5% for two-year leases.
Apolinaris has lived in the same rent-stabilized apartment since the late 1970s. She said she would be fine in the short term because her next lease renewal was due later next year. However, the possibility of paying more for his rent weighed on him.
“It’s just that it stresses me out,” she says as she walks down the street. “I don’t know what my pension check will look like. I don’t even know if I will have enough for the bills, rent and food.
“Now is not the right time to raise rents.”
New York City created rent stabilization in the late 1960s to ensure the availability of affordable housing in one of the most expensive cities on the planet. About 1 million units, or about half of the city’s rental units, are rent-stabilized.
The RGB approved the new tariffs on June 21. Prior to the voice vote, pro-tenant protesters frequently shouted over council members. Similar scenes played out at the council’s earlier public hearings on tariffs.
Protesters lobbied for no rate hikes and argued that working-class families have yet to recover from the pandemic-induced economic downturn.
Landlords, meanwhile, argued they needed rate hikes of 6-8% to catch up with rising operating costs, taxes and inflation – which have been steadily rising. while the rates remained unchanged for eight years.
In the end, neither side got what they wanted.
Tenants, for example, now have to pay up to 3.25% for one-year leases. The new rates are the highest since 2013, when one-year leases jumped 4%, while two-year leases rose 7.5%.
Since the council’s inception in the 1960s, the city’s mayor has appointed its nine members: two representing tenants, two for landlords and five for the general public. Static rates since 2013 coincided with the administration of former Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Owner groups have complained that de Blasio appointees will not move to unfreeze tariffs.
That’s why they asked for rate hikes of 6% to 8%, said Robert Ehrlich, one of the owners’ two representatives.
“It’s a range,” Ehrlich said, “that spreads out the high costs of inflation, rising property taxes, rising water rates, and a host of unfunded mandates alleged by the city council of disproportionately on landlords rather than the tenant.”
Christina Smyth, the RGB’s other landlord representative, said current rental income is not enough to pay for maintenance to keep the buildings safe, clean and livable. Typical rent-stabilized buildings were built before 1974.
“No matter what we do, nobody wins,” Smyth said. “If we maintain rents well below operating costs, we risk the deterioration of housing with stabilized rents. Our own data shows us that this is starting to happen. We see less capital investment and long-term maintenance.
“And if you factor in mortgage payments, about half of buildings with more than 80% rent-stabilized housing are in trouble. These are the buildings outside of midtown Manhattan that low-income New Yorkers rely on the most. »
Ehrlich and Smyth’s comments echoed those of Christian Gonzalez-Rivera, one of the “public” board members, who called on the New York City Council and Legislature to ease tax burdens on land owners.
This, he said, would free up more money for building maintenance, which would reduce the need to raise rents.
“Rent shouldn’t be the only source of funds to cover maintenance costs,” Gonzalez-Rivera said. “Our elected officials must step up to create tax allowances for maintenance or reform a tax system that unfairly affects apartment buildings.”
“You can’t just send the box to RGB,” he added. “It’s not fair to us and certainly not fair to tenants who have to pay higher and higher rents or landlords who are forced to choose between paying a higher tax bill or replacing the roof.”
Apolinaris, meanwhile, faces an uncertain future. If rent and other living costs get too high, she may have to move.
But, Apolinaris said she would prefer to stay. She has deep ties to Carroll Gardens, where she frequents the nearby parishes of St. Paul and St. Agnes on Sackett Street.
“When we moved in, my daughter was 12 months old and my son a year and a half,” she said. “My daughter says to me, ‘Move with us to Virginia.’ But my son doesn’t want me to move because he lives next door and he watches me.
“But because my rent is stabilized, I really don’t want to leave my apartment,” she added. “I’ve been here for 45 years. My children grew up in this apartment.