The Rent Is Too Damn High, But It’s About to Get a Whole Lot Higher

Bad news Jimmy. The rent is going up again!

Bad news Jimmy: The rent is going up again!

A rent stabilized apartment is often spoken of as a kind of golden ticket in New York, the rare real estate find that will enable its lucky denizen to stay in a neighborhood, a borough, and increasingly, a city where housing is becoming a luxury commodity. A rent stabilized apartment is not only a renter’s insurance against being priced out of their current place, but a magical amulet against a future move to Hoboken or Jersey City.

Not that rent-stabilized apartments are particularly cheap, only cheaper. Nor does stabilization mean that tenants are protected from hefty rent increases, only that those rent increases will be determined by the Rent Guidelines Board, rather than their landlords. And this year, the increase looks likely to be considerable: between 3.25 and 6.25 percent for a one-year lease and 5 and 9 percent for two year leases, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The leap is particularly high compared to last year’s 2 percent for a one-year and 4 percent for a two-year increase. And in a city where more and more New Yorkers are struggling to make the rent as it is, it might well push more than a few households past their financial breaking points, a situation acknowledged by at least one owner member of the nine-person board, which is appointed by the mayor.

Not that it changed his opinion on the rent hike; in fact, he thought it should be hiked even more.

While Steven J. Schleider conceded to The Journal that there were a “large number of at-risk families” (indeed, with a shrinking pool of affordable housing options, more and more working poor families are falling into homelessness), he argued that most tenants could afford to pay higher rents to cover landlords’ increasing costs and recommended an increase of as much of 11 percent over two years.

As for those at-risk families? He thought that increased government subsidies and programs should be used to help them. A nice way to pass the buck, but hardly likely, particularly all the budget shaving that’s currently happening as part of the sequestration.

The RGB will hold public hearings on the increases, including one on the evening that they officially set the increase on June 20, but the actual math, as well as the wheeling and dealing behind setting the yearly rate, is cloaked in secrecy. Basically, the RGB says that it sets the range of the increase after determining the increased costs for landlords over the past year. This year, fuel oil, water and sewer, and property tax all increased. And naturally, landlords are eager to pass all of those costs onto tenants.

Which would be fine if the incomes of the city’s low and middle-income residents actually increased along with their rent costs, rather than stagnating. But hey, at least the city’s many frustrated renters have an anthem now: