Rent freeze likely for more seniors with SCRIE

BY SAM SPOKONY  |  Thousands of New York City seniors living in rent-regulated apartments may soon be able to celebrate a rent freeze, after a budget deal reached by the state Legislature.

The state’s 2014-15 budget, which was approved on March 31, allows for a huge increase to the income limit for eligibility in the city’s Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption, or SCRIE, program. Pronounced “scree,” 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, households with seniors earning $29,000 or less are eligible for SCRIE. The new state provision would 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 would have the state foot the bill for any newly eligible applicants.

The plan to expand SCRIE eligibility was first introduced by state Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh.

“SCRIE enables us to protect some of our neighbors who are most vulnerable to being displaced by ever-increasing rents,” Kavanagh said on March 31, after the state budget passed.

Before it can go into effect, the program’s expansion will have to be approved by the City Council.

Councilmember Margaret Chin, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Aging, took a step toward that end by introducing a bill on April 10 that would make the new SCRIE provisions official.

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