Assemblyman Cymbrowitz Introduces Legislation to Create New Senior Rent Subsidy Program

March 9, 2017

More than 25,000 New York City seniors who struggle to pay their rent could receive a much-needed subsidy under a new program crafted jointly by the Assembly and the Mayor’s Office, it was announced today by Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), Chair of the Housing Committee and prime sponsor of the legislation (A. 6584) to create the initiative.

Assemblyman Cymbrowitz joined the Mayor at the Mirage Diner on Kings Highway in Brooklyn this afternoon, where they sat with three rent-burdened seniors from Sheepshead Bay and, over lunch, listened as the women spoke about their lives and the daily struggle of making ends meet on a limited fixed income.

The Elder Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) would provide rental assistance to seniors who are paying more than 30 percent of their monthly income toward their rent and have a total income that does not exceed 80 percent of the area median income. Funds for the program would be raised through a 2.5 percent transfer tax paid by the buyer on high-end real estate transactions of condos, co-ops and one- to three-family homes. The tax would apply only to the amount of the transaction exceeding $2 million.

Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said the severe shortage of affordable housing for low-income seniors has necessitated a new approach, especially as a severe slash in funding at the federal level is expected to decimate city and state senior housing programs.

“For hundreds of thousands of seniors living on pensions, retirement savings and other fixed incomes, the rapid rise in rents has threatened their ability to stay in their homes and neighborhoods,” said Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, former Chair of the Aging Committee. “More than 100,000 seniors have waited for seven years or more on an affordable housing waitlist and the reality is that older New Yorkers simply do not have that luxury.”

The new program would affect about 4,500 residential real estate transactions in Fiscal Year 2018, raising an estimated $336 million for senior rental assistance. The amount of rental assistance would be calculated as the difference between the senior’s rent payable, or maximum rent set by the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and 30 percent of the senior’s monthly income.

“Seniors across our great city are being hit hard by our affordability crisis and, for tens of thousands of older New Yorkers, this program will be the difference between just getting by and having a little left over every month and living a full life," Mayor de Blasio said. “I thank Assembly Speaker Heastie, Assembly Member Cymbrowitz, and the Assembly Democratic Conference – and urge Albany to sign on for our seniors.”

“For a population desperately in need of safe and affordable housing options, the Elder Rental Assistance Program – created in partnership with Mayor Bill de Blasio and under the leadership of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie -- is an innovative response that will restore hope to 25,000 struggling seniors, giving them the ability to remain in their homes and communities and age in place with the dignity that they so deserve,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said.