Testimony: Rent-Stabilization in NYC

Testimony by Leigh Mangum, Housing Project Attorney, before the Rent Guidelines Board: Proposed 2013 Apartment and Loft Order (#45). 

June 13, 2013

Chair Jonathan L. Kimmel, Board members, and staff of the Rent Guidelines Board, hello and thank you for the opportunity to speak about Rent Stabilization in New York City.  My name is Leigh Mangum and I am an Attorney at the Housing Project at the New York Legal Assistance Group, a nonprofit law office dedicated to providing free legal services in civil law matters to low-income New Yorkers.  NYLAG serves immigrants, seniors, the homebound, families facing foreclosure, renters facing eviction, low-income consumers, those in need of government assistance, children in need of special education, domestic violence victims, persons with disabilities, patients with chronic illness or disease, low-wage workers, low-income members of the LGBT community, Holocaust survivors, as well as others in need of free legal services.

We are testifying today to urge the Board to keep lease renewal adjustments for rent-stabilized apartments as low as possible.  A 0% increase in 2013-2014 would best serve the rent-stabilized tenants of New York City, so many of whom struggle to meet yearly rent increases.

The end of the Advantage Program; the closure of the Section 8 wait list and the cuts to the program in New York City due to sequestration on the federal level; the ongoing displacement of thousands of low-income families due to Superstorm Sandy; and the deepest economic recession in many decades… these many and various pressures on New York City tenants make this an especially crucial moment to maintain affordable rents for rent-stabilized families, allowing them to remain in their homes and communities.

Additionally, we urge you to require a high burden of proof of unit owners who claim that rising costs necessitate high guidelines increases: personal economic interests cannot outweigh the need for, and the rights of, tenants to live in decent and affordable housing.

I hope that our testimony will support the testimony of tenants and of other organizations that are witness to the continual loss of affordable housing in New York and the damage that it does to tenants and communities. To that end, in addition to maintaining affordable housing stock and regulating rents, I would like to emphasize that stabilized housing also provides stability for families, the vast majority of whom are low income, and for neighborhoods, in that stabilized tenants have the right to renew their leases every year or every two years, unlike market housing where tenants have little to no protection from being evicted upon the expiration of their lease.

NYLAG’s Housing Project represents tenants in Housing Court and before various agencies.  Currently, most of our cases are in Queens, where we have a satellite office in the Queens Housing Court.  We meet hundreds of tenants every year. In Queens, we see many cases where non rent-stabilized clients are constantly forced to move from one apartment to another, often annually leaving neighborhoods, friends, family, support services, medical providers, and forcing children to constantly change schools.  We also see a lot of these families unable to find alternate housing once their leases expire and, as such, they are brought to Housing Court where they are sometimes able to gain some time to move, but often, even with additional time, are unable to find alternate housing and end up entering the shelter system.  As of June 11, 2013, there were 48,739 individuals in the shelter system, including approximately 21,000 children.[1]  It is clear that there is an inadequate amount of affordable housing available, and as the rent stabilization program ages, and stabilized units are continuously lost, this crisis will worsen.

In conclusion, we urge you to hold renewal leases in 2013-2014 at their current rent by approving a 0% renewal adjustment; we would welcome the opportunity to further discuss or comment on these matters in the future.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.

Respectfully submitted,

Leigh Mangum, Staff Attorney

 


[1] See “Daily Report,” New York City Department of Homeless Services Daily Shelter Census, available at http://www.nyc.gov/html/dhs/downloads/pdf/dailyreport.pdf. Accessed June 12, 2013.