Expand SCRIE To Prevent Homelessness
Mike Golub, MSW, Member Services Coordinator, Supportive Housing Network of New York
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SCRIE (Senior Citizens Rent Increase Exemption) is a program available to senior citizens who are 62 years or older who live in rent-stabilized, rent-controlled or Mitchell-Lama housing, whose income is no more than $20,000 per year, and who pay at least a third of their income on rent -- these tenants are eligible for SCRIE if their rent has been increased. Simply put, SCRIE caps the rent with the locality paying the increase on the tenant's behalf.

SCRIE benefits everyone: tenants have their rents capped and landlords using SCRIE do not lose out financially because they receive the money back at the end of the year in property tax abatements equal to the amount they would have received with the rental increase.

The Blueprint For Ending Homelessness*, written by the Supportive Housing Network of New York, The Tier II Coalition and The Association of Service Providers to Homeless Adults calls upon Mayor Giuliani and the mayoral candidates, the City Council and all others running for office to commit to a four part plan to end homelessness within the next ten years. The first part of the Blueprint plan is about prevention and the need to "build on successful, cost-effective programs…that keep rents affordable for at risk families and individuals."

This is why the Supportive Housing Network, the Coalition for the Homeless, the Center for Independence of the Disabled, the New York State Tenants and Neighbors Coalition and many others are urging the Senate to pass bill S.3956-B, which would allow localities to expand the SCRIE program to those low-income people with disabilities. "Disabled" in the bill is defined as a "physical or mental impairment… which substantially limits one or more of the individual's major life activities." Think about it: the maximum monthly SSI check amounts to $617.00. After the rent is paid there is very little left to pay for food, clothing and other necessities. With the rising cost of rent and living expenses, a failure to expand SCRIE to those with disabilities could force people who are already housed into homelessness. SSI increases are not keeping up with rent increases.

The Independent Budget Office of New York City estimates the cost of this expansion to the City would be no more than $14.3 million in its fifth year. According to the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO), expanding SCRIE would cost roughly $1,300 per year per person as opposed to the high cost of placement in a city shelter, which, according to the New York City Office of Management and Budget is $23,000 per year. As one advocate from the Fair Housing Coalition for People with Disabilities put it, "Should this bill not become a law, it is very likely that more disabled people will become homeless and consequently cost the city even more money as they are forced to turn to the shelter system."

So why don't we have an expanded SCRIE program here in New York City, where the IBO estimates almost 36,000 households would benefit from such a simple expansion? Because Mayor Giuliani has been vigorously lobbying up in Albany against this expansion saying that it would be too costly to the city, even though the bill has already passed unanimously in the State Assembly and has many supporters in the State Senate.

In a time when one out of four New Yorkers is paying more than half of his/her income on rent, and where, according to the Coalition for the Homeless, 27,000 New Yorkers -- including 11,000 children -- are homeless, New York City must find creative ways to stop the rise of homelessness -- the human cost is much too great not to expand SCRIE to those who desperately need it. Say YES to keep disabled people housed!

ACTION: Write to Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, Senate Majority Leader, Room 330 Capitol, Albany, 12247 and tell him to pass bill (S.3956-B). For more information and to keep in touch with advocacy efforts around this legislation, please call the Fair Housing Coalition for People With Disabilities (212) 608-4320.

To apply for SCRIE now in New York City call the Department For The Aging at (212) 442-1000

* To receive or to sign on to the Blueprint, please call the Network at (212) 870-3303. Supportive Housing Network represents 150 agencies that develop and operate permanent supportive housing for homeless, low-income New Yorkers. The Tier II coalition represents 41 non-profit providers of transitional housing for homeless families and The Association of Service Providers to Homeless Adults represents 28 non-profit agencies that operate outreach services, drop-in centers and single adult shelters.
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