The Real Deal New York

Rent freeze renewal requirement hurts seniors: lawsuit

Program locks in rent for tenants aged 62 or over

November 11, 2015 11:32AM

Bobbie Sackman with Mayor Bill de Blasio

Bobbie Sackman with Mayor Bill de Blasio

Seniors are seeing unexpected rent hikes caused by problems in the design of a city program meant to help them stay in their homes, a federal lawsuit claims.

The Rent Freeze Program allows rent-regulated tenants aged 62 or older to lock in their rent. But the program requires residents to renew every two years, leading to a large number being dropped.

A federal lawsuit filed on behalf of eight New York tenants seeks to allow disabled residents to renew at the same rent level even after the deadline has passed, the New York Times reported.

“Renewal of anything is a problem,” Bobbie Sackman of LiveOn NY, an advocacy group for older New Yorkers, told the Times. “This is true for all benefits. They don’t realize what they’re getting in the mail.”

Officials at the the city’s Department of Finance told the Times they were aware of the complaints and had initiated steps to respond.

“We understand this is a vulnerable population, and we want people to get help when they need it,” Samara Karasyk, an assistant commissioner with the Finance Department, told the Times.

But lawyers working on the suit say the city’s efforts to date have been patchy and ineffective.

Critics also cited relatively low enrollment in the program. As many as 121,000 households citywide might qualify for the program, according to the Finance Department, thought only 52,171 have registered.

Most rent freeze renewals occur without incident, officials told the Times, with only about 700 participants, about 3.5 percent, dropped this year. But critics say the experience for those dropped is still catastrophic. [NYT]Ariel Stulberg