The New York City Rent Guidelines Board voted to implement a one-year rent freeze in rent-controlled apartments in New York City on Wednesday night. The move came in response to the coronavirus pandemic that has seen millions losing their jobs and struggling to pay rent. This is the third time in seven years that a rent freeze has been implemented in New York City.

The vote follows repeated calls for Governor Andrew Cuomo to take measures to protect millions of immigrant New Yorkers from rolling back rent during the pandemic, which he so far had resisted. The vote faced immediate criticism from landlords who have accused Mayor Bill de Blasio of playing politics during the pandemic.

Temporary Relief for New Yorkers

Andrew Cuomo
In May, Andrew Cuomo extended an executive order on an eviction moratorium on non-payment evictions from June 20 to August 20, expressing sympathy to landlords who are indebted to banks Wikimedia Commons

The New York City Rent Guidelines Board, the panel that sets the rent for roughly one million rent-regulated apartments in the city, passed the proposal to implement a one-year freeze with a 6-3 vote in favor of the tenants. The rents will now be frozen on one-year leases and the first year of two-year leases running from October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021. Following the vote, Cuomo signed the bill, which brings temporary relief to around two million immigrants in New York.

"Renters have never faced hardship like this," de Blasio said in a statement. Protesters in New York had been calling for a rent freeze for the past couple of months citing the number of job losses owing to the pandemic and their inability to find work. Blasio has been standing with the tenants and the vote follows pressure against Cuomo to cancel rent for all New Yorkers during the coronavirus outbreak.

Tenants Breath Sigh of Relief

New York city
Protesters in New York had been calling for a rent freeze for the past couple of months citing the number of job losses owing to the pandemic and their inability to find work. Pixabay

Tenants in New York City have been urging Cuomo to take adequate steps to help them during the pandemic as they are unable to pay rent due to job losses and face risk of eviction by their landlords. Cuomo had instead favored a moratorium. In May, Cuomo extended an executive order on an eviction moratorium on non-payment evictions from June 20 to August 20, expressing sympathy to landlords who are indebted to banks.

The bill was initially panned by tenant advocates since they felt it would not have helped much as Cuomo's eviction moratorium failed to protect immigrants as it could be difficult to prove financial hardship since the city houses many undocumented immigrants. There are around one million rent-stabilized apartments across the five boroughs of New York City.

The vote in favor of the tenants brings the much-needed relief, at least for a year. The vote, however, faced immediate criticism from landlords who accused Blasio of playing "pandemic politics." The Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 landlords of rent-stabilized apartments in New York City, said that the City Hall should now freeze property tax to help the owners survive the pandemic.