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Rent Guidelines Board Vote Could Indicate Swing Toward Renters

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The Rent Guidelines Board preliminary vote is the start of a five-week process that sets how much more than 1 million tenants across the city will pay when they renew their leases, and if this first step is any indication, things could be swinging towards renters. NY1's Jon Weinstein filed the following report.

It's rare for either tenants or landlords to leave a Rent Guidelines Board celebrating, but at the preliminary vote on this year's rent adjustment, it was tenants and their supporters cheering these ranges for lease renewals: 0 to 3 percent for one-year leases and .5 to 4.5 percent for two-year leases.

"We have a vote today which includes the potential for a rent freeze in a one-year lease, that not only the tenants voted for, but we got a landlord rep to vote for," said Harvey Epstein, a tenant representative on the Rent Guidelines Board. "This is a historic moment in New York City."

"That's the only thing good, that we have an actual possibility. It's not a guarantee," said one person at the vote. "So until we're guaranteed zero, we're going to fight for zero.

The range passed by a rare vote of 8 to 1. Historically, tenant and owner reps have voted no. In this case, only one landlord representative was opposed.

This is the first cycle under Mayor Bill de Blasio, who campaigned on a pledge to freeze rents. He appointed six new members to the board, including a new chair, Rachel Godsil, who was encouraged by the passing margin.

"The fact that we have the tenant representatives and a landlord representative and two people who were appointed under the Blooomberg administration agreeing that this a fair range suggests that we are doing our job and we've created a fair range," Godsil said.

Last year, rents jumped 4 percent and 7.75 percent. Those numbers are already out of the question this year.

Meanwhile, landlords said their costs are rising and that this range is devastating.

"Disinvestment on a massive scale," said Jack Freund, vice president of the Rent Stabilization Association. "Owners are not going to be able to maintain decent living conditions for their housing. They're going to try to get out of stabilization in any way they can. There will be less affordable housing."

There will now be public hearings in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan for the public and landlords to weigh in on what the board should do within those ranges. The final vote will be June 23 at Cooper Union in Manhattan.

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