The following testimony was presented by Mariel De La Cruz, a rent stabilized tenant in Washington Heights and a tenant organizer in HUD-financed buildings across New York state:
My name is Mariel De La Cruz a rent stabilized tenant in the beautiful Washington Heights neighborhood in Manhattan. I have lived in the same apartment for almost exactly 19 years and wouldn't have it any other way. Now that I have grown up and have graduated Fordham College, I have come to a realization that I want to live in my neighborhood, my block, my apartment for a very long time. Many of us who attend Jesuit institutions find that they love to work with less resources themselves. Many of us go the nonprofit route, not making the big bucks. Besides what the “usual” narrative is for young people raised in Washington Heights, I work hard and I have invested my time, growth and energy to my neighborhood. Now that I take care of the bills I have been blessed enough to find full time employment, but with my many student loan payments (along with other expenses) I am still struggling to make ends meet. I am afraid that the yearly increases (especially those proposed for this year) threaten my ability to stay in the place that I know and love.
As you all know, a rent increase from the tenants is not the only way for owners to make
a profit. There has been significant turnover in some of the units in my building, allowing for the owners to renovate the units to get the big rent increases from each of the new tenants that have moved in. In addition, there have been substantial rent increases to benefiting the landlords every year. I understand that costs for owners have gone up but like I said before owners have been getting steep rent increases every year but sadly, our incomes don’t have the privilege of doing the same.
While most of us tenants are struggling to make ends meet, owners on average are making major profits for each rent stabilized unit they own. So what I am saying is that tenants are ever increasingly carrying the burden, while owners are and will continue to make significant revenue for each unit. This is why I believe there should be no increases this year, to ensure that tenants are not priced out of their home in this increasingly difficult time for lower and moderate income tenants in NYC.
I ask that when you all are making your decision, you think of recent college grads like me who have full time jobs, but who are drowning in student loans that make it harder for ends to meet. I am asking you to consider some of my neighbors and family members, like my mother, who live on fixed incomes in which a rent increase would be too much to bear because their incomes don’t increase just because their rents increase. Think of those people who think of their home beyond their apartment. Please think of us.