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Rent Freeze In The Big Apple: Just Another Move To Win Votes And Sock It To Landlords

So the Mayor of New York City has decided that rents for regulated apartments in New York should be frozen due to the coronavirus. The New York Post ran a story:

Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the Big Apple’s rent board Friday to freeze rents next year for the city’s regulated apartments, offering new relief to as many as 2 million New Yorkers.

Hizzoner appoints all nine members of the Rent Guidelines Board, which determines rents for roughly 1 million of the city’s 2.2 million apartments.

“I want to see the Rent Guidelines Board act quickly,” de Blasio said at a press conference in Queens. “If you look at the facts, [the Big Apple] is facing the greatest economic crisis in generations and hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers with no livelihood overnight.”

“I think the facts are clear and we need that rent freeze and we need it now,” he added. “We’ll do it quickly in the coming weeks.”

Hizzoner said he asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo to suspend the board during the pandemic to speed the freeze, but potential legal issues derailed that idea.

So now, de Blasio called on the board to meet remotely and formally approve a freeze.

The Board in 2019 approved increases of 1.5% on one-year leases and 2.5% on two-year agreements for the second year running.

Of course, this type of action is a perfect example of politicians abusing a crisis to do things they want done or to win votes.

First of all, whatever the problem in the economy, many, many people are not losing their jobs or taking pay cuts. For example, if you happen to work for the city of New York, you are not getting a pay cut.

Second, even if people need help, this move switches the help from coming from the general population to coming from the owners of apartment buildings. It is identical to declaring that owners of supermarkets or fruit stands can’t raise their prices.

Third, note that the move doesn’t prevent New York City from raising real estate taxes or other vendors from raising fees for repairing property. It is just selecting a class of citizens – owners of residential properties – and making them pay, often to help people who don’t require any help.

Of course, the article goes on to point out that the Mayor, himself, will not be affected by this rule, because the properties he rents out are too small to be covered by the City’s rent regulation:

But economic woes won’t stop de Blasio from collecting rent from the people who live in his home in Park Slope and a second nearby property.

“Our tenants all are employed and all are able to pay,” he said.

Everyone knows that rent regulation is not based on the employment status or a tenant’s capability to pay, and the Mayor’s plan to freeze all rents has nothing to do with tenants’ employment status or financial status.

These are extraordinary times and, indeed, special help may be required for those who are prohibited from working or have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus and its effects.

But the mayor’s plan is just a give-away of other people’s money to many who don’t need any aid.

We need to find a way to limit the power of politicians who are willing to abuse people – like landlords – to win praise, and votes, for themselves.


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