Mayor de Blasio Expands Benefit Of Rent Freeze Programs From Harlem To Hollis

The de Blasio Administration today released updated guidance allowing New Yorkers who pay preferential rents for their rent-stabilized apartments to benefit from the City’s rent freeze programs. The Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act, passed by the State Legislature earlier this year, locks in preferential rents for the length of a tenancy, rather than the length of a tenant’s lease. Now, the City can freeze otherwise eligible tenants’ rents at the preferential level, instead of the legal rent. The updated application guidance for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and Disabled Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) makes clear that New Yorkers who live in rent stabilized homes with a preferential rent no longer have their rent reach the legal level to feel the benefit of a rent freeze.

“The City’s rent freeze programs have given tens of thousands of New Yorkers peace of mind and housing stability. Now that we can freeze preferential rents, the program will bring even more relief,” said Mayor de Blasio.

“The City’s rent freeze outreach team will be hitting doors across the City to make sure everyone who needs this benefit and is eligible can access it. New Yorkers who at the start of the summer met all eligibility requirements but could not feel the rent freeze in their monthly budget will now be able to feel, month to month, what this rent freeze can do,” said Jackie Bray, Director, Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants.

To apply to these programs, check if you’re eligible, or get more information, New Yorkers should go to: www.nyc.gov/rentfreeze. The City’s Public Engagement Unit and the Department of Finance outreach teams will be canvassing targeted neighborhoods and buildings, distributing information at public meetings and gatherings and reviewing all renewals to enroll as many New Yorkers as possible in the Rent Freeze program and to ensure this new guidance reaches the New Yorkers who can benefit from it.

Together, SCRIE and DRIE are known as the NYC Rent Freeze Program. This program, administered by the NYC Department of Finance, helps eligible senior citizens (aged 62 and over) and tenants with qualifying disabilities (aged 18 and over) stay in affordable housing by freezing their rent. Under this program, a property tax credit covers the difference between the actual rent amount and what the tenant are responsible for paying at the frozen rate. There are 74,666 households enrolled in these programs.

“These programs are an important part of the City’s work to combat housing costs that are out pacing incomes. We want every eligible New Yorkers to sign up and take advantage of these programs,” said Department of Finance Commissioner Jacques Jiha.

“The expansion of the Rent Freeze program to provide relief to thousands of low-income renters is an important new tool in the fight to help preserve the social fabric of our community that makes New York City thrive,” said Omar Khan, Director, Mayor’s Public Engagement Unit. “This program has life-changing implications for New York City’s seniors and people with disabilities, and the Mayor’s Public Engagement Unit will continue to proactively engage and assist applicants so they can see these benefits and remain in their homes.”

Who is Eligible?

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These programs are only available in rent-regulated apartments unless otherwise noted.

To qualify for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) program, you must:

  • Be at least 62 years old;
  • Be the Head of Household as the primary tenant named on the lease/rent order or have been granted succession rights in a rent-controlled, rent-stabilized or a rent regulated hotel apartment;
  • Have a combined household income for all members of the household that is $50,000 or less;
  • And, spend more than one-third of your monthly household income on rent.

To qualify for the Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) program, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old;
  • Be named on the lease or the rent order or have been granted succession rights in a rent-controlled, rent-stabilized, or rent-regulated hotel apartment or an apartment located in a building where the mortgage was federally insured under Section 213 of the National Housing Act, owned by a Mitchell-Lama development, Limited Dividend housing company, Redevelopment Company or Housing Development Fund Corporation (HDFC) incorporated under New York State’s Private Housing Finance Law;
  • Have a combined household income that is $50,000 or less;
    Spend more than one-third of your monthly household income on rent;

And, you must have been awarded one of the following:

  • Federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
  • Federal Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI);
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs disability pension or disability compensation;
  • Disability-related Medicaid if the applicant has received either SSI or SSDI in the past;
  • Or the United States Postal Service (USPS) disability pension or disability compensation.

The Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 requires any tenant with a preferential rent to have that rent (subject to Rent Guidelines Board increases) for the length of the tenancy. Previously, a landlord could choose to raise a preferential rent up to the legal registered rent at the end of a lease even if that lease was being renewed. Qualifying individuals with preferential rent were always eligible for these programs, but they only froze the legal rent, rather than the preferential rent, except when the preferential rent was for the length of the tenancy. Now, because of the passage of this historic Act, the City can freeze the rent at the preferential level. For more information and to find out if you qualify and have your rent frozen go to www.nyc.gov/rentfreeze.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, “Earlier this year, the Assembly Majority fought tirelessly to deliver the strongest tenant protection laws in New York State history to confront the injustices that have long existed in tenant protections. For too long, members of our communities were being priced out of their homes and neighborhoods. We are glad to see that existing programs are being modified as a result of the measures put in place earlier this year. The guidelines outlined today by Mayor de Blasio are a reflection of our commitment to ensuring that those who helped shape our communities remain able to afford to live in them.”

Senator Brian Kavanagh, Chair of the Senate Housing Committee, said, “Rent freeze programs are critical to our efforts to ensure that New Yorkers can continue to live and thrive in our communities. The City’s expansion of these programs to tenants paying so-called preferential rents is a huge step forward for our communities. I’m glad to see our Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act is helping to enhance this program.”

“So many senior and disabled tenants in my district and across our city who paid preferential rents lived in fear of not being able to afford their apartments once their lease was up for renewal, but at the same time they couldn’t qualify for the city’s rent freeze programs until their rent was increased to a level they couldn’t afford. This Catch-22 made it essential to lock in preferential rents for the length of tenancy as part of the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act,” said Assembly Member Steven Cymbrowitz, Chair of the Assembly Housing Committee. “I’m pleased that so many more vulnerable New Yorkers will be able to have peace of mind in knowing they can now benefit from SCRIE and DRIE at their lower preferential rent.”

Senator Liz Krueger and prime sponsor of the preferential rent legislation said, “For far too long, thousands of low-income older adults and people with disabilities with preferential were unable to benefit from NYC’s Rent Freeze Programs. I am extremely happy that NY State’s new rent laws finally eliminated the preferential rent loophole, making it possible for tenants with preferential rents to benefit from SCRIE and DRIE. I encourage all tenants who think they may be eligible to apply as soon as possible.”

Senator Robert Jackson said, “I represent a district that includes all of Northern Manhattan, where preferential rents represent roughly 20% of all rental housing stock, one of the highest rates in New York City. The new guidance for SCRIE and DRIE applications is a boon to my aging constituents and those living with disabilities who have preferential rent. When city and state governments work together in this new era of tenant power, we can do great things!”

Senator James Sanders Jr. said, “Everyone deserves the opportunity to have access to affordable housing especially seniors and the disabled. Rent stabilization and rent freeze assistance programs like SCRIE and DRIE are critical to helping so many New Yorkers stay in their homes. Expanding the qualifications for these programs to insure more people are protected is a positive step forward and one that I strongly support.”

“New Yorkers should be able to receive preferential rents based on their tenancy and not on the length of a lease. I applaud this new city program to protect our tenants. We made major progressive strides for our renters in Albany this year. Now we are seeing the benefits of this legislation,” said Assistant Speaker of the Assembly Felix W. Ortiz.

“The historical legislation we passed in the State Legislature this year has been an essential tool for protecting the rights of tenants across the State of New York. Preferential lease tenants were especially vulnerable to displacement. I want to thank the De Blasio Administration for expanding DRIE and SCRIE benefits to more New Yorkers. This combination of protections and benefits will come a long way in ensuring New Yorkers can not only afford their homes but they can stay in our communities,” said Assembly Member Carmen De La Rosa.

Assembly Member Latrice Walker said, “As rent continues to skyrocket across the New York City, granting tenants long term price stability can create housing security for thousands of families. I look forward to working with the seniors and other eligible households of the 55th Assembly District to take advantage of this much-needed expansion of the rent freeze program.”

“This June my colleagues and I in Albany passed a progressive housing package to empower tenants, protect affordable housing, and close loopholes that had previously placed thousands of New Yorkers at risk of losing their homes. The de Blasio Administration’s move to expand rent freeze programs to more New Yorkers builds upon June’s historic gains and will be a game-changer for seniors and New Yorkers with disabilities. This rent freeze expansion will stabilize communities, provide financial savings, and ease the struggle of people on the margins to keep a roof over their head, and I commend the administration for taking this important step,” said Assembly Member Al Taylor.

“We need to ensure the New Yorkers who built up our communities can afford to stay here, and that’s why we must tackle our City’s affordability crisis head-on by providing direct support to New Yorkers with disabilities and our City’s seniors — those who are struggling the most to make their monthly rental payments. I commend this change to increase enrollment in the SCRIE and DRIE programs. Making these much-needed subsidies more accessible will benefit every New Yorker who needs them,” said Comptroller Scott Stringer.

“Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and Disabled Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) have been vital to combatting our city’s affordability crisis,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin. ”Locking in preferential rents now means thousands of New Yorkers struggling to pay their rent will get immediate assistance. I am proud to support the Mayor’s initiative and hope to keep fighting for working New Yorkers.”

“The Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 is major win for our city,” said NYC Council Finance Chair Daniel Dromm. “SCRIE and DRIE have always been critical in the fight against homelessness and housing security in NYC. By allowing eligible New Yorkers who pay preferential rent to freeze their rent costs at that rate, this legislation takes those programs to a whole new level. I celebrate this progress and will continue to work with the administration to make housing more affordable for all New York families.”

“Thousands of older and disabled New Yorkers depend on these vital rent freeze programs to meet housing costs and stay in their homes,” said Council Member Paul A. Vallone. “Expanding rent freeze benefits will help ensure residents in the five boroughs will have a safe, affordable place to call home today and in the years to come.”

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