Rent Guidelines Board Rejects Popular Demand for “Rent Rollback” in NYC
It’s that time of year! Or month! Or day! That time when the poor, huddled masses beg and clamor for a little breathing room, and the oligarchs stare them down and shout a resounding “NO!” and stomp on their life support cords.
No, really, sorry for the hyperbole. If that feeling in your stomach is confusing you, let me help you - it’s probably something along the lines of “I want to be surprised and outraged but this is just business-as-usual in NYC.”
Alas, business as usual it is. Is it any surprise the rent board declined a proposal that would lead them and their constituents to make less money? Well, if you are surprised, I’ve got to tell you that this city has 99 problems (probably a lot more than that…) and income inequality sure as hell is one of them. This episode, this proposal being shot down - a mere blip on the map. The destitute, elderly and underrepresented minorities of the South Bronx versus the Rent Guidelines Board of NYC, yet another puppet organization in the De Blasio administration for the landowners and rich constituents, who in actuality just passed yet another draft of allowable rent increases on rent stabilized apartments. Why even bother, right? These organizations primarily represent the elite - those who actually own land in NYC, which is now more valuable than ever.
Regardless, home ownership is a mere pipe dream to most millenials, who are now being inducted into one of the worst job markets in history, one where wages have NOT kept pace with inflation for the past two decades, relevant work is harder than ever to find, and the bar to entry often high enough to exclude a large share of the labor market. Let’s not forget the unscrupulous practice of unpaid internships, which have become the de facto screening process for graduates, predisposing them to months of labor with no guarantee of recompense.
I’m one of the more fortunate millenials. I dropped out of college, started pursuing unpaid internships, and after six months and two internships I had found my way into paying IT work. I currently work at a top talent agency in an IT capacity. It’s a good gig. But it’s becoming impossible NOT to feel the squeeze of income inequality, especially (and not considering other expenses) the sheer cost of housing and cost-of-living in New York. In a way, the only equality here is in how much of the 99% feels the squeeze.
Just looking at the chart, it’s clear enough that the median rental price completely wipes out the median individual income for NYC. Entirely. But it’s clearer yet just who this absurd market is trying to court.
Notice that jump. That’s not an insignificant jump. No, I don’t mean the bottom 20% and 10%, you can put away your microscope.
But wait! Hold onto the microscope, you may need it. For rent or something.
The line between haves and have-nots seems to grow in this country (not just NYC) by the day, helped along by an ineffectual, archaic political system ripe with constituency dollars that, although inanimate, speak far louder than any votes thanks in a large part to gerrymandering. The inclusion of the public into governmental matters, then, such as with the Rent Guidelines Board, seems trite at best and insulting at worst. Clearly, there’s no incentive on the part of the legislators and administrators that oversee these “boards” to actually enact any proposal that has popular support if it will lead to negative fiscal consequences for the monied constituents. What will happen to this alienating, horribly imbalanced system? If the riots in Baltimore are any indication, social unrest will spread as conditions grow more and more uncomfortable, and unlivable. As is, NYC alone is unaffordable to most. Even if NYC is already the nadir of inequality (or one of them) in the US, there’s no saying it can’t get much, much worse. But being underwater is a feeling most New Yorkers are already pretty experienced with.
Maybe we can petition the Rent Guidelines Board to codify the inclusion of a snorkel with every new lease signing. ¢¢