By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Despite increased eligibility for the rent freeze program for seniors and the disabled, many tenants in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village who could qualify for the break are not signing up for it.
“Only 25 percent of Stuy Town and Peter Cooper residents who are eligible are enrolled,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman. “It’s owed to these residents that we help them register.”
In order to spread the word about the program, which seniors and disabled people with up to $50,000 in household income could qualify for if one third of their incomes go to rent, Hoylman and Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh held a workshop on Monday in Stuyvesant Town.
The workshop on Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) took place at the complex’s Community Center.
The event’s co-host Kavanagh had authored a law two years ago that significantly boosts the income level for SCRIE and DRIE recipients from $29,000 to $50,000.
Hoylman said that one of the main reasons residents might not know that they even qualify is because of the increase to the income threshold.
“There are people who didn’t qualify before and they do now, but they don’t even know,” he said.
ST-PCV Tenants Association board member Anne Greenberg said that other people she’s talked to also didn’t know they were eligible for the program because the age to qualify is 62, as opposed to other benefits in the city for seniors, which often start at 65.
Greenberg also noted that MCIs are always one of the biggest concerns for residents and she said she worried about what would happen to a SCRIE or DRIE tenant’s rent if an MCI is filed right after the application is filed. A representative for the Department of Finance clarified that MCIs can’t be added to a tenant’s rent if it was added after the approval period.
“At the end of the day we need to reform MCIs,” Hoylman said. “It’s one of the most outstanding causes for tenant equity in Albany. The fact that they’re permanent even after the landlord has recouped their investment, it’s outrageous. It’s a problem.”
For tenants to qualify for either SCRIE or DRIE, in addition to meeting the income requirements, they also must pay more than a third of the household’s total monthly income for rent and live in a rent-controlled, rent-stabilized or Mitchell-Lama apartment, Redevelopment Company development, or HDFC or federally-assisted coop.
To qualify for DRIE, tenants do not need to be 62 or older but must receive SSI, SSDI, a VA disability pension or compensation, or disability related Medicaid if they have received either SSI or SSDI in the past.
Tenants who live in NYCHA, Section 8 or similar housing don’t qualify for SCRIE or DRIE.
The event was co-sponsored by the Department of Finance, the Legal Aid Society, the ST-PCV Tenants Association, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James, Borough President Gale Brewer, Council Member Rosie Mendez and Council Member Dan Garodnick, who also stopped by the workshop. Kavanagh was unable to attend due to a schedule conflict but had representatives there.
Greenberg said she was at the workshop on behalf of the TA to see what the turnout would be like. As a co-sponsor of the event, Greenberg said that the TA was able to get the word out at individual buildings more easily than Hoylman’s office and they’re considering having similar events more frequently.
“The turnout looks good,” she said, “but from what the senator was saying about how many people are eligible it sounds like it’s just a drop in the bucket.”