MEDIA: Freeze rents for older New Yorkers: advocates

Proposed change would cost city $324M a year in forgone tax revenue
May 17, 2016 11:28AM

Terry Ludwig, President & CEO, Partners & Chair of Enterprise Community Partners

Terry Ludwig, President & CEO, Partners & Chair of Enterprise Community Partners

A pair of organizations advocating for New York’s senior citizens will issue a report Tuesday calling for a sweeping rent freeze for the city’s aged residents.

Enterprise Community Partners, an affordable housing nonprofit, and LiveOn NY, a nonprofit advocate for seniors, are calling for the city to hold rents for qualifying seniors at 33 percent of income.

If enacted, the change would reduce the city’s tax take by about $324 million a year.

An alternate proposal, to set the level at 50 percent of income, would cost $225 million.

The groups proposed changes to the city’s Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption program, which gives landlords tax abatements to cover the cost of subsidizing seniors’ rent. The program currently freezes enrollees’ rent at the level they’re at at the time of enrollment, often far higher than the 33 percent or even the 50 percent level, Politco reported.

In addition, as many as 80,000 of the city’s seniors aren’t enrolled in the program, simply because they’ve never heard of it, according to the city’s Department of Finance, which manages the program. By the time they do enroll, their rents have often risen faster than seniors’ fixed incomes.

The program currently costs the city about $137 million a year. The DOF said in a statement it would back the proposed changes. A vote by state legislature would be required to alter the rules. [Politco] – Ariel Stulberg