The Mayor of Rent Hikes
Will Eric Adams face resistance this time?
In this business, you inevitably repeat yourself. You write enough, and you find your words are merely an echo of what you set down a year ago. Events, sometimes, force your hand. What you said, you’ve said already. But it’s got to be said again.
In New York, there is the story of Eric Adams and rent. In 2021, Adams was elected mayor of New York City, where he was recognized widely as a tough-on-crime moderate who was dealing a rebuke to the progressive activists who seemed so ascendant in the summer of 2020. For a moment, national pundits swooned, and Adams declared himself the face of the Democratic Party. Once he took office, reality intervened, and his approval ratings tumbled. Adams’ problem, ultimately, has been a lack of a coherent policy agenda and a distinct disinterest in governing the city. Murders and shootings have declined in New York, something Adams can clearly champion, but other crime statistics remain elevated and the perception of an unsafe city remains. This perception, which Adams himself helped harden, could damage him before the next election in 2025.
But let’s talk about rent. Adams is not merely a pro-police mayor. He is also, far more than his predecessor, a landlord mayor. Bill de Blasio formed a close relationship with real estate developers in order to finance his ambitious housing plan, which called for the privately-financed construction of new apartments, some of them affordable. De Blasio, though, didn’t want to neglect the needs of tenants who would be wary of new market-rate housing they could never afford. De Blasio became the first mayor to freeze rents multiple times on the more than one million rent-regulated apartments across the five boroughs. Management of the Rent Guidelines Board, which determines the rent levels of stabilized apartments, is one of the New York mayor’s underrated powers. In an era of virtually nonexistent inflation, Michael Bloomberg, a close friend of the real estate industry, boosted rents repeatedly. De Blasio, a proud liberal, vowed to appoint tenant-friendly members to the RGB—and that’s what he did.