What is the RGB?

The RGB is responsible for establishing rent adjustments for rent stabilized apartments. There are separate boards for New York City, Nassau County, Westchester, and Rockland County; this blog deals primarily with New York City and the NYC RGB. Though the always have the option, the NYC RGB has never voted to reduce or freeze rents, and have instead consistently voted to raise rents each year. A thorough and helpful account of the board's mission and history has been compiled by former RGB president Tim Collins.

Who sits on the RGB?

All nine RGB members are appointed by the mayor. Two are appointed to represent tenants’ interests, two to represent owners’ interests, and five, including the Chairperson, to represent the general public. Board members serve staggered two, three, and four-year terms, while the Chairperson serves at the pleasure of the Mayor. There is currently a bill in the New York State Legislature sponsored by Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and Senator Daniel Squadron (A104 and S208) that would broaden the Board's membership, and give the City Council an advice and consent role in RGB appointments and terminations.

When does the RGB meet?

The board begins meeting in March of each year to review data collected by the RGB staff, and hear testimonies and reports from New York housing agencies and invited groups. These meetings are open to anyone interested in attending, hearing the reports and watching the process at work, but there is no space for public participation. In May the RGB holds a preliminary vote to determine the range of rent adjustments that will be considered, and then hold public hearings throughout June to hear additional testimony before holding a final vote at the end of June. The calendar for the 2013 session is available on the RGB website.

What happens at RGB hearings?

At public hearings, the members of the RGB hear testimony from tenants, owners, advocacy group representatives, and industry experts. Board members question the testifiers and also consider demographic and economic data that their staff makes available to the public.

These yearly rent increases don’t seem fair—do landlords really need them?

The RGB’s decisions are based on the expenses that landlords report, but landlords are not currently required to open their books and show the profits they are making. Data from city agencies, such as the Department of Finance, have in recent years shown that landlord expenses were significantly lower than the RGB's estimate. The RGB has voted to increase rents every year, even when landlords’ costs went down or their profits went up! RGB staff reports show that landlords’ profits have been consistently healthy, even during economic slumps.

How can I get involved?

Here are 6 simple ways tenants can participate in the RGB process:

1) TESTIFY! Share your story at a Rent Guidelines Board hearing, make the case against endless rent increases. We'll be posting tips for testimonies as the hearings approach.

2) COME TO PUBLIC MEETINGS! One of the best ways to see how the RGB works and hear what their staff has to say about the state of the city's housing is to attend the board's public meetings. Though there is not a space for public comment, they are open to the public and highly informative.

3) TELL YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS! Your elected officials- including City Council members, State Assembly members, and State Senators- need to know the hardships tenants face every day, and the need to oppose endless rent hikes. Tell your representatives to stand up for tenants, and encourage them to testify at the RGB. You can find your local elected officials here.

4) CALL FOR REFORM! Right now, the State Legislature is considering a bill sponsored by Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and Senator Daniel Squadron that would make simple and sensible changes to the Rent Guidelines Board. Currently, Rent Guidelines Board members are appointed, removed and replaced at the sole discretion of the Mayor of New York City. This bill would give the New York City Council the power of advice and consent on Rent Guidelines Board appointments. The bill would also go a long way towards making more New Yorkers eligible to serve as public members of the Board, and ensure that diverse views and experiences are represented on the RGB by including new professions among those qualified for appointment. Tell your elected officials to support A104/S208! 

5) JOIN TENANTS & NEIGHBORS! Tenants & Neighbors is a grassroots organization that helps tenants build and effectively wield their power to preserve at-risk affordable housing and strengthen tenants' rights in New York. Through organizing, education, intensive leadership development, grassroots mobilization, and strategic policy and legislative advocacy, Tenants & Neighbors is building a strong and unified tenant movement that has the knowledge and power to effect real change. We have leadership committees for each type of housing we represent, including rent stabilized. For more information, contact Sam Stein at sstein@tandn.org.

6) SPREAD THE WORD! Tell your neighbors, friends and community members about the crises of affordable housing in New York City, and encourage them to testify at RGB hearings and join Tenants & Neighbors.

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