Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Testimony: Tom Waters, CSS

Last week, the RGB heard testimony from advocates for apartment tenants, apartment owners, and SRO tenants. (SRO owners, for whatever reason, declined to testify.) Tom Waters, Housing Policy Analyst for the Community Service Society, spoke expertly about the increasing hardships facing tenants, the pressures rising rent burdens put on households, and the regressive nature of the "supplemental increases" that the board has passed in recent years. Below is a transcript of Mr. Waters' testimony, with accompanying charts. For more analysis, check out CSS' new housing report, "Good Place to Live Hard Place to Work", written by Tom Waters and Victor Bach.


Invited Testimony
Tom Waters and Victor Bach
Housing Policy Analysts
Community Service Society of New York
At Public Meeting
New York City Rent Guidelines Board

April 25, 2013

Thank you for the opportunity to present our concerns about the potential impact of this year’s RGB decisions on low-income New Yorkers. Rent-regulated apartments are still the primary source of housing for the city’s 1.1 million low-income[1] households—about two out of five of these families will be affected by the rent guideline increases set by this body. Only 18 percent of the city’s low-income rent stabilized tenants have a Section 8 voucher, leaving more than 336,000 poor and near-poor households without one. The slow recovery of the city’s economy is still not producing enough jobs, with dire consequences for these low-income renters. The unemployment rate remains at 8.9 percent,[2] almost double its level before the financial crisis of 2007.

Tenant Experience in the Private Rental Market, Pre- and Post-Recession

The 2011 New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey and the 2011 American Community Survey, both conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, are still the most recent sources of statistical information on New York City’s rents and incomes. These surveys allow us to draw a picture of New York tenant experience before and after the recession. The city’s continued high unemployment rate suggests that this picture remains largely accurate in 2013.
Chart 2 describes rent and income shifts experienced by tenants in private unassisted rentals over the three most recent HVS studies conducted in 2005, 2008, and 2011. Net increases in median rents over the six-year period vastly outpaced net gains in median incomes for the typical renter. Overall, rents soared to a net gain of 31 percent over the six years, compared to an income gain of only 12 percent. The disparity between the two is a clear indication of rapidly rising rent burdens, the portion of household income that is paid for rent.
The disparity between rent and income trends is evident in both rent-regulated and unregulated apartments. Even under regulated rents, the median contract rent escalated by 26 percent over the six years, more than twice the 12 percent net increase in median renter income. In unregulated units, rents increased by 36 percent against an increase in tenant incomes of 25 percent. Belts tightened for all tenants, regulated and unregulated, as rent escalation took a larger and larger bite out of household income, leaving families with less residual income to cover other non-housing living costs.
The triennial HVS surveys also confirm the dramatic impact of the recession on renter incomes and their ability to keep up with rising rents. Median income increases roughly paralleled rent increases through 2008, a growth period in the local economy, after which there is post-recession fall-off in household incomes while median rents continue to escalate.

Median Contract Rent
Median Household Income

Median Contract Rent
Median Household Income

Median Contract Rent
Median Household Income

The ACS data provide a clearer annual picture of rent and renter income trends from 2005 through 2010, which we compare to city unemployment[3] in Chart 3. Again, the picture is one of persistently rising median rents through the six years against median renter incomes that rose through 2008 and fell off dramatically while the unemployment rate was high from 2009 to 2011.
Unemployment declined from 2005 to 2008 during the city’s upward economic cycle, then spiked in 2009 and 2010 following the recession.[4] Per capita household residual income—the income remaining per member once rent is paid—is arguably the best proxy for rent-income stresses, because it takes into account household size. As a whole New York tenants across the rental sectors experienced a net loss of over 2 percent in residual per capita income (constant 2010 dollars), largely occurring after 2008. Once the recession struck, New York renters, regardless of income, had to tighten their belts to make ends meet and keep up with market rents that persistently increased while rising unemployment and an unfavorable labor market were taking a toll on tenant incomes. 

It can be assumed that the picture for renters in unassisted private apartments, particularly lower-income renters, is bleaker than the ACS data indicate. ACS data do not distinguish among the range of housing types that renters occupy, from public housing to private government-subsidized housing, to private unassisted rentals, both regulated and unregulated. As a result the ACS renter population includes over 300,000 households who live in government-assisted housing, where rents are affordable and based on income. Even so, the ACS data point to a rapid rise in the incidence of high gross rent burdens (rent plus utilities at 50 percent or more of income) to new highs over the 5-year period, with a net 3.7 point post-recession increase between 2008 and 2011. (See Chart 4.)

Low-Income Tenants in the Private Rental Market, Pre- and Post-Recession

               The experience of low-income tenants in the private rental market mirrors that of renters throughout the city. But because their unemployment rates are roughly double those of renters as a whole[5], the impacts on rent-income stresses and residual incomes is much more severe. Chart 5 confirms the extent to which net rent increases over the 6-year period outpaced income gains. Surprisingly, based on the 2005 starting points, the net rent increases in regulated units (29 percent) exceeded those in unregulated apartments (25 percent). By comparison, household incomes increased by from 14 percent.
               Residual per capita incomes declined sharply by 11 percent for low-income renters, but the impact was far more severe in the unregulated market (21 percent decrease) than in the regulated market (7 percent decrease). In short, the dynamics of an escalating local rental market, combined with the post-recession effects on employment and income, have left low-income renters in far worse economic circumstances than they were in before the recession.

Med. Contract Rent
Med. Household Income
Med. PC Res Inc Mo ($2011)[6]

Med. Contract Rent
Med. Household Income
Med. PC Res Inc Mo ($2011)

Med. Contract Rent
Med. Household Income
Med. PC Res Inc Mo ($2011)

               As a result, median rent burdens and the incidence of high rent burdens (rent at 50 percent or more – this time not including utilities) among low-income renters reached a 6-year high as of 2011. (See Chart 6.) Estimates based on the CSS subsample[7] indicate a 4-point increase in median rent burdens in both regulated and unregulated apartments—a rise from 45 to 49 percent in regulated units by 2011, and from 48 to 51 percent in unregulated units. The growing incidence of high rent burdens was even more dramatic. By 2011, a majority (51 percent) of low-income renters in the market were carrying burdens of at least half their incomes, up from 43 percent in 2005. In the regulated stock, high rent burdens rose from 45 to 49 percent of low-income families.

Supplemental rent increases

The New York City Rent Guidelines Board sometimes considers adding extra rent increases for apartments renting for under $1,000. They added such a supplemental increase last year.
This supplemental increase would seem to be based on the assumption that a $1,000 rent is excessively low. But from the point of view of affordability, this is simply not true. In 2010, the median income for rent-stabilized tenants was $38,000. That means that for half of the tenants affected by the RGB’s actions, an affordable rent (30 percent of income) is no more than $950.
The tenants living in the city’s under-$1,000 rent-stabilized apartments are primarily people who cannot afford more. Their median income is $28,000, and half of them have incomes below twice the poverty line (23 percent poor and 29 percent near-poor). More than half of these tenants (54 percent) live in lower-rent areas of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. Just 10 percent live in Manhattan below Harlem, 13 percent in Upper Manhattan, 8 percent in the gentrifying areas of Brooklyn and Queens adjacent to Manhattan, and 15 percent in higher-rent outer-ring neighborhoods such as Flushing or Bay Ridge. Three quarters of these tenants are people of color: 30 percent black, 38 percent Latino, and 6 percent Asian. Almost half (47 percent) are in households headed by an immigrant.


In light of rent escalation trends that persisted before and since the recession struck the city, it would appear that the private rental industry has not suffered a decline as a result of the economic crisis, certainly not a decline comparable to the losses in income and employment that continue to beset New York renters, particularly low-income tenants.
Certainly the impacts of a global recession and financial crisis on the income and employment of New Yorkers, and their ability to pay for their apartments, are hardly within the control of the city or of the RGB. However, RGB decisions over recent years have contributed significantly to the growing rental affordability crisis at this stage of the presumed recovery. At a time when the RGB should have exercised restraint to ease the impacts of the recession on its struggling resident constituency, it has tended to err on the side of owners by granting larger guideline increases than were necessary.
In recent years, the RGB has overestimated projected operating costs compared to the actual cost increases later reported in owner surveys, resulting in excessively high guidelines. The 2009 Price Index of Operating Costs projected a 4 percent increase, and the RGB adopted a guideline of 3 percent – a little more than enough to cover the projected increase in expenses, given that operating costs consume less than 75 percent of rent.  But the actual increase in costs as measured by Real Property Income and expense statements was only 0.1 percent. In 2010 and 2011, the Price Index again greatly overestimated cost increases. Chart 7 shows the evolution of the Price Index, rent guidelines, and RPIE costs since 1990, clearly showing the great divergence in recent years.  This divergence has resulted in higher, unaffordable rent increases for tenants.
This is an important time for the RGB to reflect on and revise the methodology it uses to determine what it considers reasonable rent guideline increases. Before and since the recession struck the city, it has tended to over-compensate owners to the expense of rent-stabilized tenants. This is certainly a time for the RGB to exercise greater restraint by keeping guideline increases to a minimum, for an industry that appears to be prospering in the wake of recession. RGB should consider its unique potential contribution to stabilizing the rental market and easing the rent-income stresses that New Yorkers continue to experience.


1)    CSS urges the New York City Rent Guidelines Board to take into account the disastrous effects of the recession on many New Yorkers, regardless of income, and exercise overdue restraint in setting new, minimal rent guideline increases. In past years CSS has recommended a rent freeze; we continue to do so in light of the persistent rent escalation that has benefited the industry in the face of a major economic set-back for many tenants.
2)    CSS urges the RGB to refrain from further supplemental increases at lower rent levels—what tenant advocates refer to as the “poor tax.” RGB should do its best to minimize increases at the low-rent levels where the poorest tenants tend to live.

APPENDIX: CSS Renter Sub-Sample

Because of unavoidable inconsistencies and inaccuracies, in respondent reporting of household income and contract rent, this analysis of rent burdens is based on a sub-sample of renter households within each of the HVS samples used. The CSS renter sub-sample for each HVS year was selected on the following basis:
               1) Rent-paying households only (exclude rent-free and owned housing)
               2) Head of household age at least 25 and less than 65.
               3) Households with a positive HVS contract rent burden
               4) Households within the middle 90 percent of the income distribution for renters
(excludes 5-percent outliers at either extreme) . The resulting household income intervals used for each HVS year are as follows:
               2011    $7,896 to $175,000
               2008    $6,912 to $160,000
               2005    $6,006 to $133,000
               2002    $6,000 to $130,000
               1999    $5,700 to $131,000
               1996    $5,000 to $119,950
5) Households within the middle 90 percent of the contract rent distribution for renters (excludes 5-percent outliers at either extreme.) The resulting contract rent distributions used for each HVS year are as follows:
               2011    $342 to $2,800 monthly
               2008    $252 to $2,500 monthly
               2005    $208 to $2,100 monthly
               2002    $200 to $1,900 monthly
               1999    $177 to $1,550 monthly
               1996    $163 to $1,300 monthly
6) Residual (after-rent) household income of at least $100 monthly, in 2002 dollars. For each HVS year, the residual income threshold, in 2002 dollars, was:
               2011    $129
               2008      $123
               2005    $111
               2002    $100
               1999    $93
               1996    $87

The resulting CSS sub-sample can be considered a more "mainstream" sample of New York City renters than the HVS renter sample as a whole. The comparison below of some of the key parameters for each of the two samples suggests that the CSS results are more likely to underestimate rent burdens and related measures of rent-income pressures for the city as a whole.

Comparison: HVS and CSS Renter Samples

                              1996                   1999                   2002                   2005                   2008                   2011

Median Income         
HVS:                    $24,680             $27,600             $32,000             $33,904             $40,000             $40,000
CSS:                     $31,000             $35,000             $39,000             $40,050             $46,400             $50,000

Median Contract Rent                         
HVS:                    $ 600                  $ 648                  $ 706                  $ 850                  $ 950                  $1,100
CSS:                     $ 600                  $ 650                  $ 730                  $ 850                  $ 996                  $1,100

Median Contract Rent Burden       
HVS:                   28 %                   27 %                  27 %                  28 %                  29 %                  31 %
CSS:                    24 %                   23 %                  23 %                  25 %                  25 %                  27 %

Percent Households with High Burdens (50% or more)
HVS:                   26 %                   26 %                  23 %                  26 %                  26 %                  29 %
CSS:                     12 %                   12 %                  12 %                  14 %                  15 %                  18 %


1 Preliminary estimate from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

We use the term “low-income” to refer to households with incomes no greater than twice the federal poverty threshold, in 2010 about $34,114 for a family of three persons. Household incomes recorded in each HVS are for the previous calendar year. Low-income households include the poor, as well as the “near-poor” with incomes above poverty but no greater than twice the poverty threshold.

Unemployment rates are calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.

4 Unemployment figures are for individuals at least 18 years old and below 65.

5 ACS 2005-2010 data estimate renter unemployment rates of 9, 8, and 12% for 2005, 2008, and 2010 respectively, against unemployment rates of 19, 15, and 22 % for low-income renters.

6 Median monthly per capita residual income figures were calculated only for the CSS renter subsample (See Appendix)

7 For description of the CSS subsample, see Appendix.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Preliminary Vote: Tuesday, April 30th

Tomorrow evening, the NYC Rent Guidelines Board will hold their preliminary vote on this year’s rent adjustment for rent stabilized apartments and SROs. In recent years, they have opted to vote on a range of increases (i.e. 0% - 3%). While the Board is not legally obligated to choose a final guideline that fits within the range they approve at the preliminary vote, they have often voted that way in the past.

What would be an acceptable preliminary guideline? Well, the landlords’ lobbyists have suggested an increase of 7% for one year leases and 11% for two year leases. We consider this to be dangerously high. It would represent an increase far in excess of the data presented by RGB staff, and would drive many rent stabilized apartments out the realm of affordability and towards deregulation.

We are asking the Board to take seriously the tenant movement’s entreaty: consider a 0% adjustment. We ask that they consider the possibility of holding rents steady for the year, after decades of rent increases which have been unaffordable to many low and moderate income tenants- and in light of voluminous data suggesting that rents have increased beyond all other economic markers.

If you are interested in attending the preliminary vote, it will take place on April 30th at 5:30 pm at 1 Bowling Green (the Alexander Hamilton US Customs House). Please note that the preliminary vote will not take place at Cooper Union, as it has in recent years.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Analysis: Income & Expense study and the Price Index of Operating Costs

Last week, the Rent Guidelines Board released two studies on economic conditions for landlords: the Income and Expense (I&E) study and the Price Index of Operating Costs (PIOC).

The I&E study is culled from documents submitted by landlords to the NYC Department of Finance in the form of Real Property Incomeand Expense (RPIE) statements. The data in this study is therefore considered to be a fairly reliable and accurate accounting of landlords incomes- from rents and other sources- and expenses in the form of operations and maintenance costs. Looking at the two together yields the “Net Operating Income”, a marker of how much money landlords are making off of their property in a year. The study presents both a snapshot of this past year’s income and expense balance (the “cross-sectional analysis”), as well as a year-to-year comparison (the “longitudinal analysis”).

The Price Index of Operating Costs (PIOC) is a figure the RGB staff creates each year based on a “basket of goods and services used in the operation and maintenance of rent stabilized apartment buildings.” This “basket” is similar to those used by the bureau of labor statistics to calculate the generalized cost of living adjustment, but it is particular to the economics of rent stabilized building ownership. The staff collects data on items like oil and gas costs, property taxes, insurance, and more, and weighs them in their sample relative to their importance as a percentage of total operating and maintenance expenses. The result of the PIOC is a single percentage, which attempts to show the change in prices for items used to operate a building in New York City.

In many ways, the I&E is the superior measure of landlord’s costs because it covers both incomes and expenses, it is based on a large and fairly reliable data set, and it measures not just the prices of goods but the exchanges in goods and services that landlords actually made. While the PIOC measures prices, it does not exactly measure costs. Landlords still have a degree of choice in the operations of their building, and can choose the most cost-efficient mechanisms options available. The I&E measures the costs landlords actually took on, not just the prices of the goods available to them.

The 2013 Income and Expense report, which is based on 2011 filings, depicts a thriving market for landlords. Rental income has risen 4.4% from the previous year, and net operating incomes (incomes minus expenses) grew 5.6%. This is the 7th consecutive year of rising NOI, in a period of severe economic recession. Not only are rent stabilized landlords doing well in an otherwise sick economy, but their profits have risen dramatically over time. In inflation adjusted dollars, NOI has risen 21.6% since 1990. NOI in Brooklyn has sky-rocketed over the same period, rising 59%. In short, with income rising faster than expenses, rent stabilized building owners continue to realize a healthy profit, while many tenants struggle through a punishing economy.

The Income and Expense report also depicts a growing trend: preferential rents. While rent stabilization is generally understood to result in below market rents, the opposite is actually the case in a growing portion of the city. For the 4th consecutive year, the “collectible rent” in rent stabilized apartments is lower than the “legal regulated rent”. The most likely reason for this trend (depicted below) is that after years of RGB rent increases, rent stabilized rents have surpassed market levels in many neighborhoods, and landlords are offering apartments at lower “preferential rents.” This growing portion of landlords needs no rent increase from the RGB to meet its expenses; in fact, they are already shorting themselves a significant share of their allowable rents. This topsy-turvy market, in which regulated landlords are voluntarily lowering actual rents while theoretical rents rise, is reason enough to question the inevitability of annual RGB rent increases.

The declining share of registered rents collected suggests that
ever-rising regulated rents are outpacing market forces.
(Trend oval added by RGBlog.)

The RGB’s 2013 Price Index of Operating Costs presents a picture of rising prices for goods purchased by landlords. The PIOC inched up 5.9% this year, due largely to increases both in generalized fuel costs and in the amount of fuel landlords used in this relatively cold and rainy winter. Insurance costs also rose, possibly as a result of hurricane Sandy.

It’s important to note, however, that the PIOC is a measure of prices, not costs per se. While prices and costs are of course related, there are many things a landlord, just like any business owner or market consumer, can do to keep costs low as prices rise. Nonprofit building owners all over the city have found ways to keep costs as low as possible, while only raising rents as a last resort. Often these cost efficiencies also result in environmental benefits, and are subsidized by the state, providing even lower costs.

If you look closely at the data, there are two factors that influence the PIOC far more than others: fuel costs and taxes. While these are facts of life for property owners everywhere, they are not immutable expenses. Fuel costs can be brought down with energy efficiencies, many of which can be paid for through NYSERDA grants and other public funds (as well as MCI rent increases). Tax abatements and exemptions are also available to landlords through the J-51 program, which paid out over a quarter billion dollars in tax credits last year.

While prices may be rising, we have to ask: what are landlords doing to keep costs low? The PIOC is a measure of prices, but it is just one factor in consideration for the Rent Guidelines Board.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wages and Rents, pt. 3: Low Paying Jobs

Question: how much of our city’s workforce is stuck in low-wage jobs? Answer: 35% and rising, according to a new analysis by the Center for an Urban Future. CUF took data from the US Population Reference Bureau on low-wage jobs in New York City, and looked at how their share of the total economy has changed over the last five years. In New York, the Census Bureau defines low-wage work as a job paying less than $12.89 an hour (or $26,818 per year).

Five years ago, the proportion citywide was 31%; today, it is 35%. The share rose in every borough but Queens, which remained static. (One has to wonder if all the low-wage jobs in Queens are truly accounted for.)  In the Bronx, nearly half the working population- 46.8%- have low paying jobs. In Brooklyn, it’s 40%.

If that citywide proportion of low-wage workers- 35%- sounds familiar, perhaps that’s because this is the exact same percentage of rent stabilized households paying more than a third of their income towards rents, as reported in this year’s Income & Affordability study. This is no coincidence- the city is becoming unaffordable to working people, who cannot survive on rising rents and declining wages.

We have a severe mismatch between our jobs and our housing. This problem must be attacked from both sides of the equation- with better jobs and lower rents. This year, the minimum wage rose incrementally. It’s time to take a step forward on housing costs, and end the cycle of ever-rising rents.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Analysis: Income and Affordability Study

On April 4th, the Rent Guidelines Board staff released their 2013 Income and Affordability Study. This is one of the most important reports the board produces, as it looks closely at the factors determining affordability for tenants. The Income and Affordability study aims to assess economic conditions based on “relevant data from the current and projected cost of living indices” (Section 26-510b of the Rent Stabilization Law). The essential question it seeks to answer is: how are tenants doing in the current economy?

The answer is: not all that well. The report reads like a traditional Irish ballad, in which circumstances keep getting impossibly worse for the protagonist. Each page details another desperate hardship facing renters in this city.

We can- and will- get into the reports’ details, but it is important to look first at the overall picture the report paints. In that there is anything positive in the data, it is that the New York City economy, like the overall US economy, continues to grow. But this is growth without equity and, for many, growth without jobs. While the national unemployment rate continues to fall, joblessness rises relentlessly in New York City.

We have come to naturalize high rents in this city. To justify the high cost of living in New York, many people will casually remark that “things simply cost more here than the rest of the country.” While there is some truth to this, the data in the Income and Affordability Study shows that rents are truly out of proportion with other consumer costs in New York. From 1968 to 2012 (the period during which rent stabilization has been in effect), overall prices rose by 600%, and rents rose 677%. This is the inverse of the rest of the country, where rents rose at a slower pace than other consumer prices.

More than anything else, what the Income and Affordability study tells us is that housing costs have become unmoored from the overall economic conditions of renters in this city. As tenants struggle to keep apace, rents continue to rise ever higher.

As for the data, here is what we learned:

Unemployment amidst Growth:
  • The New York City economy grew by 2.2%, compared to 2% last year. At the same time, however, unemployment rose to 9.2%.
  • Even as national unemployment drops, joblessness in NYC rises.
    • The gap between local and national unemployment is the largest in 9 years. Local unemployment has risen 4 times in the last 5 years.

Falling wages (except for landlords):
  • Over the past 12 months, real (i.e. inflation adjusted) wages declined by 4.5%.
    • Tenants in rent stabilized apartments earn, on average, $15,000 less than their market rate counterparts.
    • Real estate is one of just three sectors where real wages actually rose last year!

Poverty in the City:
  • Poverty rates continue to rise, hitting 20.9% citywide.
    • Poverty rates are even higher for children, nearly 30% of whom are living in poverty.
  • Poverty rates rose this year in every borough but Staten Island.
  • Applications for welfare programs rose by 2.6%, while job placement among cash assistance recipients dropped by 2.8%.
  • The top 20% of NYC residents makes more than 25 times the lowest 20%, making NYC one of the most unequal cities in the country.

Unaffordable Housing:
  • The average rent stabilized tenant puts about 35% of their income towards the cost of housing.
  • As discussed below in Wages and Rents pt. 1, most tenants are paying higher rents than they can afford, according to HUD standards.
  • Nearly 1/3rd (30.6%) of tenants are paying more than half of their income in rent.
  • Rent burdens have grown for the past four years.

The Cost of Living:
  • While overall consumer prices rose by 2%, rental costs rose on average by 2.4%.
  • Electrical costs, paid largely by tenants, rose by 3.7%.

Homelessness and Evictions:
  • As has been widely reported in the press, New York City is experiencing crises of homelessness.
    • An average of 43,295 people stayed in city shelters each night, up a massive 14.6% from last year. This is about double the average in the 1990s.
    • Last year, the number of households placed from shelters into permanent housing dropped precipitously following the end of the Advantage program. This year, the number continued to drop by another 7.5%.
  • Housing court:
    • While the number of housing court cases are down from last year- suggesting that more landlords are receiving their rent in full- the number of evictions rose by 4% to the highest level ever recorded in any I&A study.
    • While not referenced in the Income and Affordability Study, we highly recommend taking a look at CASA and the Urban Justice Center’s recent report on evictions in Bronx Housing Court, entitled “Tipping the Scales”.

Taken together, the 2013 Income and Affordability Study presents a distressing picture of tenants caught between rising unemployment, falling wages, rising costs, and prevalent homelessness. If the Rent Guidelines Board is asking whether tenants can afford another rent increase, the answer is clear: no, we cannot.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Welcoming the new RGB tenant representative: Harvey Epstein

We are very excited to welcome the newest addition to the Rent Guidelines Board: Tenant Representative Harvey Epstein. Mr. Epstein is widely respected in his field as a thoughtful, strategic and passionate advocate for New York City tenants and low wage workers. In a profile of his career thus far, the New York Times described him as “a lawyer for the dispossessed.” He is the Associate Director of the Urban Justice Center, and Director of their Community Development Project, which provides legal, research and technical support to grassroots organizations throughout the city. (An excellent example of their work is a recently released report, created in conjunction with Bronx housing advocates CASA, entitled “Tipping the Scales: A Report of Tenant Experiences in Bronx Housing Court.”) Before joining the Urban Justice Center, he worked at Housing Conservation Coordinators, The Legal Aid Society, and Queens Legal Services. We look forward to Mr. Epstein’s active participation on the Rent Guidelines Board, starting at tomorrow morning’s Public Meeting!

We would also like to take this opportunity to once again thank Adriene Holder, the longest serving tenant representative in RGB history, who stepped down from the Board this year. Ms. Holder’s work on the board was exemplary, and her commitment to tenants is unending. We look forward to continuing to work with her in her ongoing role as Attorney-in-Charge at the Legal Aid Society’s Civil Practice.