Last week, the members of the Rent Guidelines Board cast a preliminary vote, and it looks like the rents are going up for New York City's one million rent stabilized apartments, though it's unclear yet by how much.
The early vote isn't exactly surprising. The mayor gets to choose who sits on the board, and unlike his predecessor, who secured three rent freezes and minimal increases over his two terms, Mayor Eric Adams has publicly called for a rent hike.
Still, it's useful to get inside the minds of the people who wield this vast power, like Arpit Gupta, one of Adams's appointees on the RGB. Thankfully, there is Gupta's Substack.
Gupta is an NYU business school professor, and has expressed skepticism of rent control programs. He also has some interesting ideas about space and crypto. In a Substack post from last year that begins, “We are in the midst of a crypto boom” (lol), Gupta proposes financing space exploration to colonize Mars through creating a Martian land-backed cryptocurrency. (H/t to journalist Roshan Abraham, who tweeted the post last week.)
"Creating a cryptocurrency backed by Martian land neatly solves a number of problems at once," Gupta asserts.
In Gupta's telling, the currency would be grounded in the fact that Martian land is finite, and would generate money that would then go back into space exploration and development. "Value Capturing the Red Planet," as the sub-headline reads. (Earth-based projects that have utilized this controversial scheme: Hudson Yards and the, uh, BQX.)
He continues: "And then, once we colonize Mars, we start off with a nice way to verify and protect property rights, as well as a natural currency to use there.”
Ah yes, property rights! A very important priority once the rich are ready to yeet themselves into space to escape our currently burning planet and colonize Mars.
Did our crypto-playboy mayor read this Substack post and whisper to himself, "Yes, this is precisely the man I need to determine the rent of millions of New Yorkers?" Maybe. A spokesperson for Adams declined to comment on Gupta's theory and referred back to the mayor's remarks on Friday regarding the board hearing: "We must find that balance of those small property owners and tenants who are suffering, not only dealing with their rent, but with my policies and my allocation of my budget has gone through to help everyday New Yorkers."
In an email, Gupta said that he doesn't have much to add: "I think it's an interesting idea that I wanted to get out there, but I'm not sure what the actual viability is. So more food for thought rather than something that affects conduct on the RGB."
Landlord representatives on the board cited energy costs, inflation, and the cost of preventing buildings from falling into disrepair when pushing for an even higher increase. That measure did not pass.
Tenant representatives, including Sheila Garcia and a differentAdams appointee, Adán Soltren, proposed a range from negative 1 percent to 1.5 percent.
Soltren and Garcia called on landlords to be more transparent about their finances to show the extent that inflation is affecting them. "If you wanna talk about inflation, I just want you to go to a grocery store and see what it means to feed a family right now," Garcia said during the proceedings.