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Council member wants to give renters a “fair shot”

Legislation looking to reform Rent Guidelines Board
A new bill wants to help tenants fight rent increases.Getty Images

New York’s 2.5 million rent-stabilized tenants may get a better shot at fighting annual rent increases under a new proposal before the City Council.

Councilmember Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan), introduced a bill on Thursday that would change the way the Rent Guidelines Board’s decides how much rents can rise each year.

Johnson and other critics say the current barometer is an outdated way of tracking what it costs landlords to keep up buildings.

“Tenants deserve a fair shot. These reforms, if adopted, would give them a fightingchance against the real estate industry," Johnson said in a statement.

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Sheila Garcia, an organizer with Community Action for Safe Apartments in the southwest Bronx, and a tenant representative on the board, said tenants face constant increases, from their landlords doing building maintenance and installing new appliances, to rents going up simply because an apartment becomes vacant.

“We’ve been waiting for this to happen, we know the data has been skewed for the landlords’ benefit,” Garcia said.

Garcia said half the tenants living in the south Bronx are paying 50 percent of their income in rent, and are forced to double and triple up in apartments to afford annual increases. In 2012, 11,000 people were evicted in the Bronx, Garcia said.

“This is the poorest congressional district in the country, and tenants having to take on the burden makes it unbearable … people don’t have any spending power.”

If passed, the legislation would also require small building owners to start reporting their income and expenses to the Department of Finance, and create a system for tracking that data.

 
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