A Successful Existing Program For Senior Citizens
The Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption program is one of the State of New York’s most successful and cost-effective housing affordability programs. SCRIE enables low-income seniors in rent controlled, rent stabilized, and Mitchell-Lama apartments to remain in their homes despite rising rents by exempting them from rent increases. The program does not impose any cost on landlords, because they receive property tax abatements equal to the foregone rent.
Rent abatements under SCRIE cost local governments an average of less than $1,500 per tenant household in the program (4). This relatively low cost helps maintain neighborhood stability, protects people on fixed incomes from displacement, and may ultimately save government money by keeping tenants out of more costly housing programs. For these reasons, SCRIE is a very popular program, and local governments continue to opt into it.
The major defect in SCRIE as it now exists is the lack of provision of rent increase exemptions for people with disabilities under 62 years of age. All of the arguments for the existing program could also apply to exemptions for low-income people with disabilities.
Costs and Benefits to Governments
Extending the SCRIE program to cover people with disabilities would cost approximately $1,500 per year for each additional person who participates in the program. The City of New York’s Independent Budget Office has estimated that an additional 7,500 households in New York City would eventually participate in the expanded program. The total cost to the city would be $2.2 million in the expanded program’s first full year of implementation, rising to $12.2 million after five years. (5)
This relatively low cost helps maintain neighborhood stability, protects people on fixed incomes from displacement, and may ultimately save government money by keeping tenants out of more costly housing programs.
No estimate has been made of the possible savings if the extended SCRIE program prevents people from entering other forms of subsidized or public housing, including nursing homes and homeless shelters. Homeless shelters cost up to $23,000 per person per year to operate in New York City (6), and nursing homes cost $91,615 per person in New York City, Nassau County, and Suffolk County (7). The savings to federal, state, and local governments would therefore be considerable.
The extension of SCRIE to people with disabilities is an idea that deserves to be enacted for reasons of equity and of prudent policy. It would allow people with disabilities who have been fortunate enough to find accessible housing to continue to reside there by exempting them from unmanageable rent increases. Assembly Bill 6673-A and Senate Bill 3956 should pass.
1 Priced Out in 1998: The Housing Crisis for People with Disabilities, The Technical Assistance Collaborative, Inc., and The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Housing Task Force, pp. 43 and 17. www.c-c-d.org.
2 Selected Findings of the 1999 New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey and Housing New York City 1996, New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
3 Housing New York City 1996, p. 253. This combines the 37.9 percent rate for buildings with elevators and the 1.6 percent rate for buildings without elevators.
4 The total annual cost of the existing New York City SCRIE program is $65 million for 45,000 households.
5 Independent Budget Office, June 27, 2000.
6 Coalition for the Homeless.
7 New York State Partnership for Long-Term Care, www.nyspltc.org.