REAL ESTATE

NYC Landlords Seek 5% Rent Hike on Stabilized Units

A landlord can dream, right? After a year of rent freezes, owners are calling for up to a 5 percent rent hike on rent-stabilized apartments across the city.

Landlords testified at the Rent Guidelines Board’s Thursday meeting that the hike was needed after years of miniscule increases that have not kept up with inflation, the rising costs of utilities and property taxes.

The Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 landlords, requested an increase of between 2 and 4 percent on one-year leases and 3 to 5 percent on two-year leases.

“A rent-guideline increase of no less than 2 percent would help reverse a seven-year trend in which the RGB’s past rent adjustments – including last year’s and two previous rent freezes – have deliberately ignored the board’s own research data that pointed to necessary rent increases,” Vito Signorile, RSA Vice President of Communications, said in a statement.

The Real Estate Board of New York meanwhile recommended a minimum increase of 3.9 percent on one-year leases.

After last year’s rent freeze, any increase would be something of a victory for landlords. The freeze was the third during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s term.

Chinatown landlord Justin Fong testified that his family’s 100-year-old property has drained him of “everything and then some” since the onset of the pandemic. Fong said all his personal earnings as an electrician and day laborer are plowed back into his property at a loss.

Costs of electricity, natural gas and heating oil have risen for landlords since the pandemic led more people to stay home.

Lincoln Eccles, who owns a rent-stabilized building in Crown Heights, said electricity and water bills eat up 60 percent of his gross revenue. He estimates it will cost $70,000 to replace a recently broken boiler; about $30 sits in the building’s bank account, Eccles said.

The landlords said they are increasingly vulnerable to opportunistic buyers who intend to sit on the property, gut renovate, and then hike rents to market rate.

“The time for putting a bandaid on the housing crisis is over,” said Chris Athineos, a Bayridge landlord with 150 tenants. Preserving affordable housing means preserving old buildings, and that is not cheap, said Athineos, who was “begging” the city for a reasonable rent increase.

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