But even by those standards, the meeting on Wednesday was a surreal scene. It was held virtually for the second year in a row, and the two members of the board who represent tenants attended it from a rally, joined by renters and housing groups. Immediately after the vote, chants at the rally drowned out the voice of David Reiss, the board’s chairman; then the representatives’ microphones appeared to be muted.
A slim majority of renters in New York City pay market-based rents, which are still among the highest in the United States even after asking rents for those units dropped to 10-year lows during the pandemic.
Esteban Giron, who lives in Crown Heights with his husband, said that they used to pay about 30 percent of their monthly income toward rent. Now, it is closer to 75 percent after his husband lost his job during the pandemic.
“It will be a long climb back for families like mine,” Mr. Giron, a tenant advocate, told the members of the Rent Guidelines Board at a public hearing last week. “The board should stop entertaining the notion that this is in any way an even or balanced fight here.”
The vote came during a momentous period for renters not just in New York City but across the country. On Wednesday, the federal government signaled it would extend the moratorium on evictions imposed during the pandemic, which were supposed to expire this month. They would now lapse in July, while a moratorium put in place by New York State ends in August.
While most evictions are on hold, landlords can still file eviction cases in New York City Housing Court. Since the start of the pandemic, they have filed more than 57,000 cases, according to the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. But those cases, which cannot proceed until after the moratorium is lifted, could take many months, if not years, to be heard before a judge.
This month, New York State also started accepting applications for tenants to receive rent relief through $2.7 billion largely funded by the federal government. Tenants can receive up to a year’s worth of past-due rent and a year’s worth of utility arrears. About 110,000 completed applications from across the state have been submitted so far, according the state’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, which is overseeing the assistance program.