by Barbara Nevins Taylor
As we head into 2016, 20 percent of older people in New York live in poverty and housing is the number one issue, according to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. The mayor spoke on a telephone conference call about affordable housing with a thousand members of AARP.
Callers’ questions for Mayor de Blasio reflected the widespread fear of older New Yorkers, and their relatives, about how they can stay in their apartments in a city where a luxury building boom and gentrification continue to transform neighborhoods.
One woman asked what she should do. She said, “$50,000 a year in rent is getting a little crazy.” The mayor suggested that she and others take advantage of this year’s historically low Rent Guidelines Board increase. For a one-year lease, landlords must offer a zero percent increase. But the mayor seemed to like the idea of a two-year lease with a 2 percent increase that, at least, offers security for a couple of years. “This is good for some,” he said.
Jean, an 80-year-old caller, said she’s been in her apartment for 46 years. She worries that the landlord may force her out as he converts the apartments to condos. She said, “He’s not renewing leases,” and while her lease isn’t up until next year, she’s not sure what to do.
Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been, who was with the mayor, suggested Jean and others in the same situation call 311 and ask to talk to a legal aid lawyer. She also suggested calling the New York Attorney General’s office to inquire about protecting her rights and to make sure the landlord follows the rules.
The mayor said the city invested $60 million in lawyers to offer free services for all New Yorkers in need.
Mayor de Blasio tried to assuage fears and repeatedly talked about his five- borough plan that will create 10,000 new units for seniors and preserve 120,000 existing apartments.
Those interested in new affordable apartments can find the information on the New York City Housing Connect site. Once you apply online your name goes into the hopper for a lottery and you may get lucky.
Typically affordable housing units will go to people who earn less than $20,000 a year.
The city is also reaching out to landlords of small buildings to join the city’s preservation program. It can help them upgrade their buildings’ infrastructure, water and energy, through a low-cost loan program.
The mayor closed the call by asking New Yorkers to contact their city council person and express support for his housing plan that would require landlords who build new high rises to make 20 percent of the units affordable. Many community boards oppose the plan because it allows landlords to build large buildings in low-rise neighborhoods.
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