BY LUIS GRONDA
One program that helps seniors avoid sharp rent increases is getting a major boost in this year’s State budget.
The Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption Program has gotten an increase in its income cap for the first time since 2009.
The new threshold for seniors to be eligible for the program will be $50,000 or less beginning on July 1 of this year, when the new State budget that was adopted last month goes into effect. This is $21,000 higher than the previous cap, which was $29,000 or less.
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) and Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), who announced the hike to the program at a press conference Tuesday morning, said the change is expected to allow about 10,000 more seniors to be eligible for the program.
“Since I’ve been doing this job, I’ve had so many people that walked away and said ‘I can’t believe it, why can’t I get it’ and people are so close to that $29,000,” Stavisky said.
The City Council must also vote to allow the increase of the program. Koslowitz said she expects the full body to pass it.
“I can’t imagine that anybody would deny this to happen,” she said.
Susan Rabinowicz, the director of the Young Israel of Forest Hills Senior League, where the press conference was held, said this will greatly benefit thousands of seniors who were previously unable to get their rent stabilized.
Stavisky said extra funding available in this year’s State budget is the main reason that money was allocated for the program. The new cap will last until 2016, when a new budget will be created.
Seniors who are eligible for the SCRIE program can have their rent frozen at a specific rate, provided they meet all of the requirements. To be eligible for SCRIE currently, you must be at least 62-years-old and have a yearly income below $29,000.
It can also depend on the type of housing where seniors live. If they live in a Mitchell-Lama or redevelopment company development under the private financing housing law or a federally-assisted co-op, they can also be eligible for SCRIE.
SCRIE was first established in 1970 to protect seniors from rent increases in rent-controlled apartments. Six years later, it was expanded to residents that live in some rental or co-op apartments, or Mitchell-Lama as it is referred to today.
With the SCRIE program well established, people also called for it to expand even further, this time to disabled tenants who are not senior citizens.
In 2005, the City Council adopted the Disability Rent Increase Exemption, or DRIE. This measure protects low-income and disabled from rent increases. Although SCRIE and DRIE are similar, they do have different rules and regulations for who is eligible for each program.
For more information on the SCRIE program and to ask about applying for the program, please call Stavisky’s office at (718) 445-0004.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @luisgronda.