Op-Ed | Lives at stake in RGB rent increase vote

By Rigaud Noel and Sheila Garcia

Why are we forcing New York’s most vulnerable out on the streets rather than creating a fair and equitable process that will keep people in their homes? If the NYC Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) proceeds with increasing rents this year, 2.4 million low-income individuals in the Bronx and throughout New York City who currently lack the means to afford the cost of living, will be forced out of their homes.

While the world is seemingly recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, there are countless New Yorkers – from families of color to small business owners, to seniors and our youth – who are still reeling from the devastating impacts and are in critical need of support and resources in order to make ends meet and survive each day. They should never be put in a position to decide between rent and food for their family. We cannot simply ignore this reality.

According to the study from JustFix.nyc, “mom and pop” landlords make up less than 1% of landlords who own 10 units or less. The data also shows that large landlords own vast majority of rent stabilized housing in NYC, which means that despite the argument from proponents, rent hikes will serve corporate investors over small landlords.

Last year the RGB made the decision to hold another season with limited online hearings and a subsequent vote to raise rents for one and two-year leases on more than one million rent regulated apartments. Without access to public hearings, these tenants will no longer have a voice in the discussion; and without that opportunity in this process, they will be forced to pay unaffordable rent hikes this year. When you combine substantial rent hikes – the largest increase we’ve seen in 10 years, and with the rising costs in food and basic living expenses due to inflation, the end result is a massive crisis. This will have a detrimental impact on millions of hardworking rent-stabilized families and children who are already rent-burdened and are at risk of losing a roof over their heads. The lack of transparency throughout this process is not only unjust but seeks to exacerbate the divide that already exists by race and zip code in this city.

It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be broken. It’s an absolute disgrace, and we’ve had enough.

We are demanding that the RGB freeze rents and implement a fair and just public hearing process that our city’s low-income tenants deserve. The pre-pandemic hearing format consisted of five public in-person hearing sessions across New York City, and it is vital that this structure is restored. These are real human lives that are at stake, and time is running out.

New York City is known as the greatest city in the world because of its resilience and strength. In our city’s toughest moments, we pride ourselves in uniting to help our fellow New Yorkers. To the RGB and Mayor Eric Adams we ask you: why aren’t we coming together to help our fellow New Yorkers when they need us most?

Rigaud Noel is the Executive Director of New Settlement; and Sheila Garcia is the Director of Community Organizing at New Settlement and a member of NYC Rent Guidelines Board.

Originally published via AMNY