By Sheila Anne Feeney
Tenants were relieved and landlords frustrated at a New York State Supreme Court decision announced Tuesday that appeared to vindicate the rent freeze for one-year leases instituted by the Rent Guidelines Board in 2015 and repeated again last year.
“Working people have beaten the landlord lobby,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “Despite attempts to overturn the recent rent freeze, a court has ruled the Rent Guidelines Board was correct in its decision,” to consider affordability in decreeing that rents could be frozen.
But the law specifies that the board consider only the economic factors affecting landlords, said Mitchell Posilkin, general counsel for the Rent Stabilization Association, a landlord group that represents 25,000 landlords of one million stabilized apartments. The group sued the board last year over the freezes. After the RSA receives a copy of Judge Debra James’ decision and analyzes it, “we will consider our options for appeal,” Posilkin said.
Residents of the 30,000 or so rent-controlled units in NYC are not affected by the decision, Posilkin said.
“Landlords are doing well with resale prices on the rise, rents overall increasing and a low foreclosure rate — even with the rent freeze,” and the decision will result in fewer homeless families, Harvey Epstein, a Rent Guidelines Board member and project director of the Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center, said in a statement.
City Council member Mark Levine hailed the decision as a “monumental victory,” noting that city tenants “have faced record levels of displacement, an epidemic of evictions and rents that go nowhere but up.” Rent gobbles up more than half the incomes of a third of New York tenants, noted Levine, who suggested a new fight be waged for “a rent rollback this year.”
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