Though he appointed the majority of its members, the Rent Guidelines Board bucked Mayor Bill de Blasio’s call for a rent freeze Monday and approved a one percent hike—and today the mayor said he was disappointed in the board’s decision, but not quite surprised.
Two of the six people Mr. de Blasio appointed to the board voted to approve the hike, and one of the mayor’s appointees was actually the person who suggest the one percent hike—Steven Flax, appointed to represent the public, whom some City Council members took issue with publicly on Twitter after the Monday night vote.
“I have not talked to him today. I disagree with his action,” Mr. de Blasio said of Mr. Flax. “From everything I’ve heard of him, he’s a person of integrity. But I disagree with his vote.”
The other one of Mr. de Blaiso’s appointees to vote for the hike, Sarah Williams Willard, was added to the board to represent property owners.
The mayor blamed the makeup of the board, with slots reserved to represent landlords and tenants, for the failure of the rent freeze—even though Mr. Flax was chosen to represent the public and not landlords.
“The Rent Guidelines Board, the way it’s built, the members represent different constituencies, landlords, tenants, and there’s independent members, and members who were named by me, members who were not named by me,” Mr. de Blasio said. “It was no surprise to me there would be a difference of opinion, and we knew it would be a close vote either way you slice it.”
The mayor said he still believed it would have been the “right time for a rent freeze” and that in the past, the board had given “artificially high increases to landlords and unfairly treated tenants.”
But the mayor stopped short of saying he’d shake up the board, which determines how much landlords can raise the rents of rent-stabilized properties.
“We will look at the future when the time comes,” Mr. de Blasio said. “What’s very clear to me is we want a numbers-driven decision—we have not always had that in the past.”