Rent freeze program for senior citizens looks to expand reach

Pols, program advocates look to target both older residents and their children

May.May 29, 2014 04:35 PM

The New York State budget, approved by Governor Cuomo earlier this year, provided for a lift in the maximum annual income allowed for older tenants to qualify for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption. But despite that victory, elected officials and other program supporters say it will do little to aid elderly New Yorkers squeezed by rising rents unless it is better publicized.

The program, which allows rent-regulated tenants aged 62 and older to lock in their rents at the current level as long as they pay more than one-third of their household income in rent, is hamstrung by language barriers, a lack of computer access and traveling difficulties from would-be beneficiaries, elected officials and program advocates told the New York Times. The program is therefore reaching fewer people than it should, and should be bolstered by a public awareness campaign targeting both older residents and their adult children, advocates told the paper.

“You need to target the seniors, but also their children,” Bobbie Sackman, director of public policy for the Council of Senior Centers and Services of New York City, told the Times. “They would respond if they saw a subway ad that says: ‘Do you want to freeze your mom’s rent?’ This is the best bargain in town.”

Under the rules of the program, commonly known as SCRIE, seniors qualified if their annual income was less than $29,000 and if they paid at least one-third of their income for rent. Post-budget change, the cap is now $50,000 per year. The program is administered by the city Department of Finance and extends a property tax break to landlords to make up for the reduced rent. But the program has fallen behind the pace of the city’s rising living costs in recent years, with the state lifting the income threshold only twice over the last ten years. [NYT]Julie Strickland

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