How to Testify Before the RGB

How to Testify Before the RGB

 

Published: 
May 2017

Before the city Rent Guidelines Board votes June 27 on what rent increases it will allow for the coming year, it will hold five public hearings to hear tenant testimony about how any rent increase will affect them.

The five hearings will be held between June 5 and June 19, in Queens, upper Manhattan, the Bronx, lower Manhattan, and Brooklyn. (See the schedule on page 7.) A judge has ruled that the RGB can take tenant affordability into account when setting guidelines. The members need to hear what your experience as a rent-stabilized tenant in 2017 actually is and the financial hardships that rent increases are causing us.

The guidelines the board sets will affect leases that start from October 2017 to September 2018. The nine members are appointed by the mayor: Two represent landlords, two represent tenants, and five are public members, including the chair. They need to take into account tenant testimony and their staff’s studies on tenant affordability and landlord income and expenses. (Those reports can be found on the RGB’s Website.)

One study found that landlords’ net operating income increased by 10.8 percent. A report about families with children in city homeless shelters showed that 43 percent had come out of rent-regulated buildings. Despite two unprecedented rent freezes for one-year leases, landlords have been raising rents by major capital improvements, individual apartment improvements, and taking advantage of preferential rents. 

We believe that a rent rollback is justified because tenants’ stagnant wages are falling further behind the escalating cost of rent!

Tips for Preparing Your Testimony:

  • Keep it simple! You will have only two minutes to testify, so prepare by writing out what you want to say. Keep your testimony clear and concise, and describe your situation. RGB members are moved by personal accounts of individual tenants.
  • Begin by introducing yourself and giving personal details—what neighborhood you live in, how long you have lived in your apartment, how you make a living, if you have children. It is important to show the RGB that rent-stabilized tenants are a diverse group. 
  • Try to include concrete details in your testimony—do not assume that the board members know your situation. 
  • Talk about the economic hardships you’re facing. If more than one-third of your income goes to rent, that is more than what the federal government defines as rent-burdened. Make sure you include that fact in your testimony. Today, half of tenants are paying more than one-third of their income in rent. Almost a third are paying more than half of theirs.
  • Predatory Equity: If you know for sure that your building’s owner is a predatory-equity landlord who has overpaid for your building and is actively seeking to drive tenants out and raise rents high enough to get the apartments deregulated, include that in your testimony.
  • If you have received an MCI increase over the past 10 years, tell the board the specific amount or percentage your rent has increased due to MCIs.
  • Compare the rent increases your landlord has received to how much your income has gone up. 

For more information or to sign up to testify, go to www.nycrgb.org/html/about/meetings.html, or contact Met Council, Andrea@metcouncilonhousing.org or 212-979-6238 x3.