Mayor Bill de Blasio named three new members to the Rent Guidelines Board on Thursday, worrying landlords that a rent freeze is in the offing.
Mr. de Blasio appointed two public members to the board, Helen Schaub and K. Sabeel Rahman, as well as a property-owner representative, Scott Walsh, who is an executive at developer Forest City Ratner. All three replaced holdover members who were appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Mr. de Blasio has now appointed or re-appointed all nine members of the Rent Guidelines Board, which sets rents for the approximately 1 million apartments across the city that are subject to rent stabilization by state law. Last year, despite Mr. de Blasio’s public call for a rent freeze, the board voted to increase rent on one-year leases by 1% and by 2.75% for two-year leases. They were the smallest increases in the board’s history.
Jack Freund, vice president of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 owners of rent-regulated apartments, said the new appointments increase the likelihood that the mayor will get his way this year.
“We presume he’ll try again for a rent freeze,” Mr. Freund said, “with greater success.”
“We’ll know soon enough how independent this board is,” he added.
Advocates for tenant groups rallied before the board’s meeting Thursday to call for a rent decrease. Landlords argue that 0% increases starve them of revenue to maintain their buildings, and others have noted that nearly 50,000 rent-stabilized units house residents earning morethan $150,000 a year. The board has never approved a freeze in its 45 years.
The mayor’s office won’t say whether Mr. de Blasio plans to reiterate his call for a freeze. Last year, he was unsuccessful thanks to intense lobbying from landlords and mixed messages from his own administration. A spokesman for the mayor said that he will make a determination after a close examination of the data, including maintenance costs and lending for the construction of AFFORDABLE HOUSING.
“The mayor has appointed a diverse and experienced group of members who understand the seriousness of our affordability crisis,” the spokesman said.
Ms. Schaub is director of policy and legislation for New York state at 1199 SEIU United HealthcareWorkers East. Mr. Rahman is an assistant professor at Brooklyn Law School.