By Tanya Hobson-Williams, Esq.
More than 10 percent of New York City's population is comprised of senior citizens. Many of them live on fixed incomes and in rent-controlled apartments. With residential real estate values making positive gains, many landlords who own these apartment buildings are looking to make a profit -- even if it means getting their longtime tenants to move out, by any means necessary.
In order to get them to move out, many landlords have resorted to harassment and abuse. This includes shutting off their heat or hot water or refusing to make any necessary repairs. But with a fixed income and routine, forcing senior citizens to relocate endangers their safety and well-being.
Demand for rental apartments in the city have shot up rental prices. According to Rentvine.com, the average reported rent for an apartment ranges from $2,167 to $2,961 a month. When these building owners and landlords see prices like these, it's no wonder they wish to show their elderly tenants the door, without considering the lives of their current residents.
So they are now kicked out. What happens next? Where will they live? Can they really afford to move into a new $2,100-a-month apartment on a fixed income? Can they stay in the neighborhoods they're familiar with? It's a dangerous proposition to ask elderly citizens to entirely change their daily routine. It's long been recognized that forced relocation of elderly individuals leaves them vulnerable to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues .
Mayor de Blasio's plan to provide 200,000 affordable housing units is currently facing an uphill battle, which means the number will be a lot less, leaving more seniors shut out and on the street.
Recently, New York City Councilwoman Margaret Chin sponsored legislation that would crack down on property owners who abuse their elderly tenants. Under the bill, civil penalties would increase from $5,000 to $10,000 and owners who engage in these abusive practices would be placed on a blacklist maintained by the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
According to 2011 data from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, approximately 120,000 senior citizens are subject to some form of abuse each year -- which works out to 12% of the city's elderly population. New York City should not be enabling this type of treatment. Councilwoman Chin and her co-sponsor, Councilman Jumaane Williams, should be applauded for standing up for the rights of the elderly, who are unable to speak for themselves and do not have the resources to do so.