Council Unanimously Votes to Expand Rights of Elderly Tenants
New York City’s population of older adults, which currently represents 20 percent of the city’s entire population, will grow as the Baby Boomer generation ages. A 2021 CUNY Graduate Center study reports that the population of adults ages 65 and older in New York State will increase 25 percent between 2021 and 2040, compared to just 3 percent growth in the general population. And in New York City alone, the number of older adults is expected to jump 40 percent by 2040, especially as New Yorkers are living longer.
To give older New Yorkers a greater opportunity to age in place, on Jan. 19, the City Council unanimously approved a series of bills from Council Member Crystal Hudson’s Age in Place NYC legislative package. Council Member Hudson, chair of the Committee on Aging, unveiled the Age in Place NYC legislative package in September 2022. Three bills from the package passed the Council by a vote of 50-0-0. The bills are set to take effect 180 days after they become law.
Right to Counsel
One of the bills passed was Int. 673A, which would entitle renters over the age of 60 facing eviction or termination of tenancy full legal representation at no cost. This bill would also require the Department for the Aging to establish a housing support program for the purpose of providing tailored advice and support, through case management services, to persons 60 years of age or older who are at risk of eviction or foreclosure. The bill also directs the Coordinator of the Office of Civil Justice to work with persons 60 years of age or older to educate and inform them about their rights in housing court.
Prior to this bill’s passage, only individuals who earned less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) were eligible for free representation in housing court. In 2017, the City Council passed a bill that required the NYC Office of Civil Justice to establish a program that provided legal representation to low-income residents facing eviction in housing court. The bill expands the right to council to adults ages 60 and older.
Another bill, Int. 672A, would require NYC Aging to identify the communities that each older adult center serves and the primary languages of those communities. It would then need to notify each older adult center of those languages on a yearly basis and work with them to develop programming in those languages.
Introduction 674A would mandate that NYC Aging create and disseminate a know-your-rights pamphlet for older adults to inform them of their rights on various topics and provide information on relevant agencies and community-based organizations that they can contact to receive additional information.
Universal Design Features
On Feb. 2, the City Council unanimously passed another bill from Council Member Hudson’s Age in Place NYC legislative package. Int. 676 would require HPD to develop a list of universal design features and require a developer who receives city financial assistance to incorporate universal design elements in all dwelling units in a new housing development project. The bill would also require HPD to produce a report on the universal design list, which HPD would post on its website. Universal design for housing is defined as the process of designing an apartment or house so that it’s accessible for everyone, regardless of age, physical ability, or stature.
Remaining Age-in-Place Bills
The Age in Place NYC legislative package has six other bills waiting to pass in the Council, including legislation to establish a telemedicine accessibility plan to improve the accessibility of portable monitoring devices that could be used by older adults (Int. 675), create a citywide online digital literacy program for older adults (Int. 665), codify the existing system that permits tenants to apply to and renew benefits for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and the Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) programs (Int. 255), establish a commission on LGBTQIA+ older adults (Int. 564), require antidiscrimination training for older adult service providers (Int. 623), and a resolution calling on the state to pass legislation permitting New York City to automatically enroll older adults in SCRIE (Res. 236).