August 24, 2016

UNHP launches NYC Rent Freeze Initiative


For most people affordable housing is the housing they live in now. Preserving the affordability of multifamily rental housing in an important part of UNHP’s mission. UNHP is expanding our services at the Northwest Bronx Resource Center to include assistance with the NYC Rent Freeze Program for Bronx senior citizens and people with disabilities to help insure that they can continue to remain in their apartments despite fixed and low-incomes drained by rising rents. Since our launch through December 2016,UNHP has screened 95 people, and submitted 64 applications to the NYC Department of Finance (DOF). 33 NYC Rent Freeze applications have already been approved by DOF and 18 people have registered for Housing Connect. Make an appointment with UNHP today for the NYC Rent Freeze and Housing Connect by calling UNHP at (718) 933-2539.

The NYC Rent Freeze Program also known as SCRIE (the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption) and DRIE (Disabled Rent Increase Exemption), run by the NYC Department of Finance (DOF), can freeze the rent of a low-income senior or disabled person and exempt them from future increases due to lease renewals. Mayor DiBlasio raised the income limit of the program recently and many more senior and disabled households are now eligible. The building owners receive the lease renewal amounts from the NYC Department of Finance. To be eligible for the program you must be a senior (62 and older) or a person who is disabled (18 and over and on SSI/SSD), live in rent regulated apartment, have a household income of $50,000 or less and spend at least 1/3 of your income on rent.

Working with West Bronx Housing, Community Service Society,The Financial Clinic, and POTS, UNHP & Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation sponsored an outreach and enrollment event to assist seniors learn about and apply for the NYC Rent Freeze. The event was held in FBHC’s 243 unit low-income senior citizen residence, known as Serviam Gardens. The summer event attracted over 60 attendees; 21 applied for SCRIE, 4 applied for DRIE , 9 signed up for Housing Connect and 9 obtained a credit report. UNHP made follow-up appointments for those attendees who needed to bring additional documents at the Northwest Bronx Resource Center.

Senior Citizen advocacy groups, The Mayor’s Office and LIVEON NY cite data that the Department of Finance (DOF) Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption is under-utilized. In the Northwest Bronx neighborhoods of Kingsbridge Heights and Mosholu, LIVEON NY estimates that more than 70% of seniors and people with disabilities who are eligible for the program are not enrolled. The Northwest Bronx neighborhoods of Kingsbridge, Fordham, and University Heights have under-utilization rates between 50% and 70%. UNHP, NYC Department of Finance, local politicians and other Bronx groups are making a concerted effort to insure that those who may be eligible for the program know about it.

This map created by LiveOn NY shows the NYC neighborhoods (in orange and maroon) that have high under-utilization rates for the NYC Rent Freeze. UNHP targeted Bedford Park, Fordham, Kingsbridge, Norwood, Mosholu, University Heights and Kingsbridge Heights for the enrollment event.

Thanks to the generous support of Citi, the Northwest Bronx Resource Center (NWBRC) added as a new service SCRIE and DRIE application and enrollment assistance. The Community Service Society trained our staff and interns on the program requirements and application processing. Working with the Department of Finance, Community Service Society of New York, Part of the Solution (POTS)Fordham Bedford Community Services (FBCS), West Bronx Housing and the Financial Clinic, UNHP and  Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation (FBHC) sponsored the Northwest Bronx Rent Freeze Application and Information Event over the summer. The event was held at FBHC’s handicap accessible senior residence, Serviam Gardens, and provided information and application assistance to over 60 seniors. 30 applications were submitted out of this event. Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation participated in the event and did targeted outreach to the seniors in their properties. FBHC Tenant Specialist Shyla Espejo assisted FBHC tenants directly at the event.

The Northwest Bronx Rent Freeze Information and Enrollment Event at Serviam Gardens. Seniors and people with disabilities were able to get information about freezing their rents through the Department of Finance (DOF) program and submit applications directly with DOF with the assistance of UNHP, FBHC, and other community organizations.

UNHP is also participating in Bronx Senior Housing Month with the Department of Finance, elected officials and other community groups to get the word out about the program and to staff two enrollment events in the Bronx. See UNHP’s calendar for more details, and News 12’s coverage of this initiative.

UNHP and FBHC participated in the Bronx Senior Housing Month press conference with other community groups, Senator Gustavo Rivera, Community Board 7, elected officials, NYC Department of Finance and DOF Commissioner, Jacques Jiha at the Bronx Library Center located on East Kingsbridge Road.

UNHP supports the proposals to improve the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption program recommended by LiveOn NYC and Enterprise in their 2016 Reducing Rent Burden for Elderly New Yorkers – Improving the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption Program Report. SCRIE freezes rents at current levels as of the time of enrollment, but because paying in excess of one third of income is a criterion for eligibility, it guarantees that participants must initially be (and may remain) rent burdened. Households paying one third or more of income for shelter are considered moderately rent burdened, while those paying half or more are considered severely rent burdened. When Enterprise analyzed the depth and extent of rent burden experienced by seniors who are enrolled in SCRIE, it was evident that a majority of SCRIE beneficiaries are severely rent burdened (spending over 50 percent of their income on rent) and almost a third are paying over 70 percent of their income towards rent. The report recommends that the subsidy to seniors decrease their portion to the rent to 30% of their income, to reduce the burden of the tenants.

UNHP is working with applicants to participate in the LiveOn survey in order to provide more information about how much seniors are really paying towards rent. UNHP oversees 19 multifamily buildings with two private managers, Dougert Management and PWB Management. UNHP is planning to do targeted outreach and events in partnership with the building mangers to insure that eligible tenants in UNHP buildings are enrolled in the program.

Our new work with SCRIE and DRIE enrollment is just the latest in a long history of work with Bronx senior citizens. We provide free tax preparation days at 4 local senior citizen low-income (HUD 202) residences and have provided special on-site financial education workshops as well.  Rose Hill  Apartments, was originally developed by Fordham University in 1985 and UNHP, as owner and general partner, oversaw the refinancing and renovation of this 119 unit low income senior housing project in 2008.  Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation, the largest community-based affordable housing developer in NYC, has made a significant commitment to create affordable housing for low-income seniors and the disabled in the northwest Bronx through its 3 senior residences; Serviam  Gardens, Edison Arms, and Msgr. Fiorentino Apartments. FBHC is currently in construction with the Serviam Heights Senior Housing project with over 170 units. Despite a fairly large number of senior apartments in our community, waiting lists are very long, not only in the Bronx, but at other low-income senior developments throughout the City as well.

NYC Rent Freeze enrollment assistance is just the latest in our work to help Bronx seniors. The Northwest Bronx Resource Center provides on-site free tax preparation at four senior residences, financial education workshops and foreclosure prevention assistance with specialized programs for seniors through the Parodneck Foundation.

The need to preserve affordable housing for low-income seniors is clear and urgent. Affordable housing for seniors provides community and services to seniors and helps to make rental units available to other low-income families. UNHP supports new low-income senior citizen development creation, the reinstatement and adequate funding of the HUD 202 program, increased SCRIE subsidies for low-income seniors and application outreach and enrollment assistance for seniors and the disabled for the NYC Rent Freeze.

Denise came back to the the Northwest Bronx Resource Center to show us her approved SCRIE rent freeze!