Friday, April 28, 2006

NYC Rent Ceilings to Increase

Columbia Spectator

NYC Rent Ceilings to Increase
Over One-Fourth of City Housing Residents to Face Rent Raises
By Tom Faure Spectator Staff Writer
April 27, 2006

The New York City Housing Authority will raise its rent ceiling for the first time since 1989 in September, to compensate for federal cuts and rising costs.

The rent increase, announced last Thursday, is part of a new initiative that the NYCHA calls its �Seven-Point Plan to Preserve Public Housing.� According to NYCHA, the hike will affect 27 percent of its residents and will be phased in over the next two years. It will increase the rent ceilings of those affected by five percent.

NYCHA announced the increase only weeks after instituting new surcharges on utilities, repairs, and excess energy consumption.

�The ceiling has not been changed for years,� said Sarah Martin, president of the tenants� association at Grant Houses on West 125th Street and Broadway. �Having to do this�and it had to be done�the Housing Authority did it the most fairly it could.�

Some residents, however, were not pleased to hear the news.

�I used to live here. It�s because they raised their rents I had to leave,� said Derrick Williams, a former resident of Grant Houses.

�My grandparents were one of the first people who moved here,� said another Grant Houses resident who identified herself as Janee. �The problem is, if we want to stay here, we�ll have to buy a place.�

�It�s becoming more punitive to live in public housing,� said Harlem Tenants Council Director Nellie Bailey. �Five percent is not the end of the world, but it shows what�s to come ... It doesn�t take long for that to trickle down. You start with the top 20 percent and then start to include others. Look at the utility charges, those were for everyone.�

�NYCHA has talked about the deficit it�s expecting, but we have to look at the number of apartments they�re warehousing,� Bailey said, referring to the apartments that NYCHA owns but hasn�t rented out. �I think they have some explaining to do about these extra apartments as potential sources of income.�

The Housing Authority pointed to rising costs and lagging federal support for its mounting budget deficit. A press release said the Housing Authority had suffered a budget deficit of �$168 million in 2006 alone ... Utility costs are up 42 percent; pension costs are up 752 percent, and collective bargaining costs are up 29 percent.� NYCHA hopes the increase will save $60.8 million by the 2009 fiscal year.

The move may have additional consequences. However, Community Board 9 Chairman Jordi Reyes-Montblanc said that his concern is more focused on the private landlords who may increase, and possibly abuse, the rents. �They [the landlords] need no justifications, but we�re keeping an eye out.�

NYCHA Chairman Tino Hernandez noted in a press release that NYCHA rents will still be lower than those of public housing tenants in cities like Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, and Syracuse, N.Y. The plan also includes $100 million in city aid.

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