Comptroller Stringer, State Senator Krueger and Assemblymember Rosenthal Introduce Legislation to Raise Awareness of Rent Freeze Program for Seniors and People With Disabilities

State legislation would require that a tenant be given formal notice on potential eligibility for SCRIE and DRIE rental assistance program

Bill would assist many seniors and people with disabilities living on limited incomes and facing high rent burden

New bill could help up to 26,000 seniors and people with disabilities access rental assistance

New York, NY Today, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, State Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal announced the introduction of new legislation (S.6210/A.7730) to raise awareness of the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and Disabled Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) programs that assist seniors and New Yorkers with disabilities who are living on limited incomes in making rent payments. The legislation would require that seniors and tenants with disabilities be given formal notice of potential eligibility for the program at the same time as they receive routine communications from landlords or government agencies regarding such issues as an application for a rent adjustment due to a major capital improvement, a rent increase, or notice of a new lease or renewal of a lease. The programs enable income eligible tenants to have their rents frozen at one-third of their incomes, or the rent paid on the lease before they applied, whichever is greater. Both SCRIE and DRIE are under-enrolled, with less than half of all potential beneficiaries registered in the program. The legislation introduced today would help bolster enrollment in these critical programs and ensure more who qualify for assistance actually receive it.

“We need to help the New Yorkers who built up our communities and ensure they can afford to stay here, with access to affordable housing that will allow them to age in place and thrive in their golden years.” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “That’s why we must tackle our City’s affordability crisis head-on by providing direct support to New Yorkers with disabilities and our City’s seniors — those who are struggling the most to make their monthly rental payments. Increasing enrollment in the SCRIE and DRIE programs is a much-needed subsidy that must be extended to serve every New Yorker that needs it. As the original sponsor of DRIE legislation during my time in the New York State Assembly, I want to thank State Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal for sponsoring this important legislation and for working to ensure that our most vulnerable tenants receive the rental assistance they need to make ends meet.”

”The SCRIE and DRIE programs have allowed thousands of older New Yorkers and people with disabilities to stay in their homes and age in place with dignity,” said State Senator Liz Krueger. “But thousands more are struggling to pay the rent without even knowing these programs exist. This bill ensures that some of our most vulnerable neighbors will get the vital information they need to ease their rent burden. Thank you to Comptroller Stringer and Assemblymember Rosenthal for championing this important effort.”

“The Rent Freeze Program is a critical lifeline for this city’s senior and disabled tenants, but only if senior and disabled tenants know it exists,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal. “This bill will help promote awareness of the existence of the Rent Freeze program, and provide so many vulnerable tenants with desperately needed rent relief. I look forward to working with Comptroller Stringer and State Senator Krueger to see this bill become law.”

The new bill stems from a 2017 report by Comptroller Stringer, entitled “Aging with Dignity: A Blueprint for Serving NYC’s Growing Senior Population,” which outlined recommendations regarding the City’s plan to respond to changing demographics on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis to better serve New York City’s growing senior population. One of the proposals in the report was to help promote awareness of the City’s SCRIE and DRIE programs to freeze rent levels for eligible seniors and New Yorkers with disabilities struggling to pay their monthly rent.

S.6210/A.7730 also requires routine communication from landlords or government agencies such as an annual certification required by Section 31 of the Private Housing Finance Law, a lease rider, a lease containing an escalator clause, a maximum base rent adjustment or heating fuel cost adjustment, or an annual or otherwise periodic 2.2 percent rent increase for buildings receiving benefits pursuant to Section 421a of the Real Property Tax Law, to include formal notices about potential eligibility for SCRIE or DRIE.

To qualify for the SCRIE program, individuals must be 62 years of age or older, earn $50,000 or less annually, pay more than a third of their monthly income in rent, and reside in an apartment that is hotel-stabilized, Mitchell-Lama, rent-controlled, or rent-stabilized. New Yorkers with disabilities can qualify for the DRIE program if they are not able-bodied and are 62 years of age or younger. Based on New York City Department of Finance (DOF) data, in FY16, 59,524 persons were enrolled in SCRIE and 10,743 in DRIE compared to the population of an estimated 121,729 potentially eligible SCRIE recipients and 33,637 potential recipients eligible for DRIE. A notification expansion of this scale could increase SCRIE enrollment from its current 49 percent participation rate to approximately 70 percent, benefiting 26,000 seniors.

“Aging with Dignity: A Blueprint for Serving NYC’s Growing Senior Population” Report

Comptroller Stringer’s report, “Aging with Dignity: A Blueprint for Serving NYC’s Growing Senior Population,” outlined three main recommendations to address the needs of the City’s growing senior population including creating safe, healthy, and affordable housing options in which seniors can grow old; developing livable communities for seniors, and supporting the wellbeing of older New Yorkers. It also found that:

  • Between 2005 and 2015, the City’s population of adults over 65 increased by about 182,000 – from approximately 947,000 to 1.13 million – a rise of more than 19 percent
  • In 2015, adults over 65 composed about 13.2 percent of the City’s population, up from about 11.9 percent in 2005 with the population being most significant in Brooklyn, followed by Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island
  • Between 2005 and 2015, the number of working seniors in New York City grew by 62 percent, and during that same time, the share of seniors in New York City’s labor force grew from 13 percent to 17 percent
  • Over 40 percent of New York City senior-headed households depend on government programs (including Social Security) for more than half of their income, while more than 30 percent depend on these programs for three-quarters of their income
  • A higher percentage of seniors receive government assistance than the general population:
    • Nutrition assistance (25.5 percent)
    • Supplemental Security Income (14.6 percent)
  • Seniors are more likely to pay in excess of 30 percent of their income on housing than the total population, regardless of whether they rent or own their homes

“JASA supports all efforts to educate older adults and people with disabilities on the SCRIE and DRIE rent increase exemption programs,” said Kathryn Haslanger, CEO of Jewish Association Serving the Aging (JASA). “The targeted outreach outlined in this legislation has the potential to reach thousands of households and will allow people to age in place with dignity and security.”

“The SCRIE and DRIE programs are lifelines for older New Yorkers who would otherwise be priced out of our city, but these programs can’t work if seniors don’t know about them,” said Beth Finkel, New York State Director of AARP. “Less than half of those who qualify are enrolled in SCRIE. The legislation announced today would go a long way to ensure older New Yorkers can remain in their homes.”

“HCC works with several hundred tenants per year who are eligible for DRIE or SCRIE,” Leslie Thrope, Executive Director of Housing Conservation Coordinators. “Many have not applied even though they had been eligible for months or years. If they had known about these programs, they would have saved their families hundreds or thousands of dollars in rent. This bill helps prevent this harm and we are proud to support it.”

“So many older and disabled New Yorkers are squeezed financially,” said Susan Dooha, Executive Director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled, NY. “Even when they live in rent-stabilized or rent-controlled apartments, they may have trouble making ends meet. Thanks to Senator Krueger and Assembly Member Rosenthal for this important bill that will ensure that these tenants find out about the programs that can keep them in their own homes. Since many older and disabled people teeter on the edge financially and 60% of homeless individuals are people with disabilities of all ages, this bill could be a critical tool for efforts to prevent homelessness.”

“With one out of five older New Yorkers living in poverty and thousands more struggling financially at just above the poverty line, it is crucial that programs such as the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) remain intact and utilized to their fullest potential," said Allison Nickerson, Executive Director of LiveOn NY. “LiveOn NY applauds Senator Krueger, Assembly Member Rosenthal, and Comptroller Scott Stringer for their attention to this critical program. LiveOn NY is appreciative of all efforts to strengthen SCRIE as a tool to ensuring that all seniors can age with dignity and respect in our communities.”

“We must do more to educate tenants as to programs like SCRIE and DRIE that will assist them to remain in their housing,” said Larry Wood, Director of Organizing of Goddard Riverside Law Project. “Far too many seniors and disabled tenants come into our office in crisis facing an unaffordable jump in their rent—who are already rent-burdened with rents exceeding a third of their income. If tenants were informed—along with an official notice of a potential rent increase, it will go a long way in reducing hardships and evictions.”

“Senior citizens and people with disabilities are two groups of New Yorkers who are particularly vulnerable to increasing rents and the unaffordability crisis plaguing the city. While there are programs like SCRIE and DRIE that are designed to help keep them stably housed, far too many tenants simply do not know that such resources are available to them—or they learn when it is far too late,” said Jeanette Zelhof, Executive Director of Mobilization for Justice. “The proposed legislation is a critical step to ensuring that tenants are informed of their rights and potential eligibility for SCRIE and DRIE, both when they move in and at important junctures throughout their tenancy. These proactive measures will undoubtedly keep many tenants in their apartments and prevent unnecessary and devastating evictions.”

To read more about Comptroller Stringer’s report, “Aging with Dignity: A Blueprint for Serving NYC’s Growing Senior Population,” click here.