City Council Approves 72% Increase in SCRIE Income Limits
On May 14, the New York City Council unanimously voted to expand a housing subsidy program that will now give a rent freeze to tens of thousands more seniors citywide.
As part of New York State’s 2014-2015 budget, the state legislature approved on March 31 a huge increase to the income limit for eligibility in the city’s Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) program. The exemption freezes housing costs for rent-regulated residents older than age 62 who already pay more than one-third of their income for rent.
Currently, residents whose annual income is $29,000 or less are eligible for SCRIE. The new provision will raise that income cap up to $50,000, a 72 percent increase, allowing around 24,000 additional households to enter the program, according to state estimates.
The city currently pays the full cost of SCRIE, but the new provision will have the state foot the bill for any newly eligible applicants whose incomes are between $29,000 and $50,000.
“Today’s vote to increase SCRIE income eligibility is a major step forward in our goal to increase stable, affordable senior housing options in our city,” said Councilmember Margaret Chin, chair of the council’s Committee on Aging. The state will have to renew this expansion in 2016 in order to keep the income cap at $50,000.
The City Council also unanimously approved Chin’s resolution to call on the state legislature to pass a bill that would remove the need for future state action to further broaden SCRIE eligibility. The state bill, first introduced in January 2013, would require the SCRIE income cap to be adjusted each year to reflect any increase in the New York/northern New Jersey Consumer Price Index (C.P.I.), which tracks the cost of living within the region. Essentially, the program would expand alongside the rate of inflation.
“As the number of older adults living in New York increases, planning for and addressing the housing needs of seniors is a task our city must decisively and proactively address,” Chin said. “Linking SCRIE eligibility to regional C.P.I. is commonsense policy that will allow thousands of seniors to remain in the program without fear of losing their membership or their homes.”