Keeping New York Affordable for Seniors

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Finding affordable housing in New York City for senior citizens is difficult. Many spend more than half their income on rent alone.

Many senior citizens in New York City struggle to find affordable housing. There are an estimated 200,000 seniors on a waitlist for affordable housing, with an average wait time of seven years. And the city’s senior population is expected to grow by 40 percent by 2040.

In Staten Island, the senior citizen population is expected to see the biggest increase — 65 percent — and seniors' organizations say there is an acute shortage of affordable senior housing in the borough.

LiveOn NY, an non-profit organization for older New Yorkers, says there is a city program that could help ease the problem, but it is vastly under-utilized. The Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption, or SCRIE, freezes rents for those residents who meet a series of qualifications that include being over 62 and living in a rent regulated apartment.

In a report released last year, LiveOn NY found that only 43 percent of older New Yorkers eligible for the SCRIE, are enrolled, and that on the North Shore of Staten Island, less than 30 percent are enrolled. The organization wants the the mayor to launch a major public awareness campaign about the exemption and make additional improvements to the program to help seniors afford their rent. This week, City Comptroller Scott Stringer recommended automatically enrolling all senior renters who are eligible. His office estimates half of seniors who qualify for SCRIE are enrolled.

For his part, Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to provide 15,000 units of senior housing as part of his administration's goal to build and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over 10 years. To help fund this, he is asking Albany legislators to approve a "Mansion Tax" on homes that sell for more than $2 million dollars in New York City.