De Blasio Appoints Four New Rent Guidelines Board Members

On March 27, Mayor de Blasio appointed four new members to the Rent Guidelines Board. During his campaign against Republican Joe Lhota in October, de Blasio said that he would push the Rent Guidelines Board to freeze rents when it votes in June. The mayor doesn’t have direct authority over the board, so his primary influence is through his appointments.

The mayor appointed Sarah Williams Willard as an owners' representative, Cecilia Joza and Steven Flax as public members, and Sheila Garcia as a tenant representative. The Rent Guidelines Board determines annual rent adjustments for approximately one million apartments across the city subject to the Rent Stabilization Law.

The mayor's first public member appointee, Cecilia M. Joza, is currently the housing counseling program director at Mutual Housing Association of New York, a not-for-profit housing organization that owns and manages over 1,200 affordable rental apartments in New York.

Steven Flax, the mayor's second public member appointee is currently a vice president of community reinvestment at M&T Bank. Flax oversees New York City community development lending for the bank. Flax is also the chair of the Neighborhood Opportunities Fund, a collaborative of foundations and banks, which has invested over $25 million to enable non-profit community development corporations to lead the revitalization of distressed communities throughout New York City.

The mayor's owners' representative appointee, Sarah Williams Willard, has spent over 15 years in real estate development and management. Willard spent her early years at Prudential Capital, CarrAmerica, and Greenfield Partners, where she held several roles, including debt origination, development modeling and acquisitions. Willard also worked at the MacFarlane Group and at Blesso Properties, where she eventually became a real estate developer. Last September, Sarah joined Hudson Companies as a senior project manager, where she is responsible for managing the company's activities on Roosevelt Island.

Sheila Garcia is currently the community organizer at CASA New Settlement, a not-for-profit, mixed-income housing and community-service organization in the Bronx. At CASA, Garcia works with community residents to improve living conditions and maintain affordable housing in the neighborhood. Garcia has a 23-year track record of active commitment in neighborhood revitalization, community building, and positive youth development.

The Rent Guidelines Board is set to release a preliminary determination about rent increases in May. Last year the board voted to increase rent by 4 percent for one-year leases and 7.75 percent for two-year leases.