East Village retailers face rising rents to protect low-income neighbors

July 19, 2012 03:00PM

A bevy of East Village businesses are bearing the burden of increased rents for their neighbors in low-income housing. The Local reported that in order to fund $400,000 worth of upgrades to some of its 25 buildings in the East Village, the Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association is planning rent increases of about 30 percent for its commercial tenants.

“We tried as much as possible to use our reserve funds, instead of increasing the rents of the tenants through big increases that tenants cannot afford,” said Val Orselli, the executive director. “So either the cost has to be borne by residential tenants, who are very low-income, or the commercial tenants.”

The group’s real estate has not been renovated at all since 2005, and a recent survey of the properties found repairs were needed to several of the buildings.

The association said its residential tenants’ average income is just $12,000. Meanwhile, the rents paid by commercial tenants are still well below market rate, according to Tower Brokerage President Bob Perl, who is representing the landlord in rent negotiations.

But that hasn’t stopped the owner of La Sirena, a Mexican memorabilia store at 27 East Third Street, from complaining that the hikes will push her out of the neighborhood. Her rent will rise past $2,000 per month after previously being $1,600. [Local EV]