On June 27, the New York City Rent Guidelines Board will vote on a proposed two percent rate hike for residents across the five boroughs. Members of the board showed up for a hearing in Jamaica this week and rightfully—but not surprisingly—got an earful.
Every year, the guidelines board holds hearings to listen to testimony from tenants, advocacy groups and industry experts before making a decision on whether to increase or decrease rent—or make no changes whatsoever.
At the Jamaica hearing, more than 150 residents showed up with picket signs and testimonies, during which they told members of the guidelines board that they were often forced to choose between paying rent or for groceries, electricity, tuition costs for their children and healthcare costs for ailing family members. One attendee—who couldn’t afford to pay the electric bill due to her cost of rent—noted that “as a parent, trying to explain to my child that he had to do his homework, eat and shower with a flashlight was one of the worst experiences for me. It is part of my job to provide a safe home environment and I couldn’t even do that.”
And according to the Rent Justice Coalition, a total of 43 percent of people in shelters previously lived in rent-stabilized apartments, but could no longer afford them due to annual rent hikes.
In other words, the rent is too damn high. Nearly every year, New York City becomes more expensive—from MTA fare increases and rising city and state university costs to the amount residents are spending on their rent. And worse, these costs often increase more rapidly than wages.
Queens residents already pay some of the highest rent costs in the nation—and they deserve a break. No parent should have to choose between providing one essential service—such as rent—or another—such as food or medical costs. We urge the Rent Guidelines Board not to raise the rent on city residents—or, better yet, decrease it.