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Op-Ed: A Message to New York Seniors and Disabled New Yorkers, Freeze Your Rent

Beri Diana Calderon is originally from the Dominican Republic; she has lived in her Washington Heights apartment for the last 26 years with her daughter and her two granddaughters.

June 29, 2022 Op-Ed By Beri Diana Calderon courtesy of NYC Mayor’s Public Engagement Unit

It’s no secret that rent prices are rising in NYC. But there is one secret you should know—some New Yorkers can freeze their rent.

For more than twenty years, I’ve lived in my Washington Heights apartment. When I moved in, my daughter was just a baby, and now her babies are being raised here, too. While my daughter goes to work, I wake up early each day to walk my oldest granddaughter to elementary school and come back after to feed my youngest granddaughter breakfast before going to the park and then doing my household chores. This is my labor of love.

But like thousands of other New Yorkers, I struggled to keep up with rent and keep my home.

Thankfully, in 2017, I had a breakthrough. While on an outing with my sister, her friend told me that she had frozen her rent, and maybe I could also. After enrolling in a rent freeze program, the amount she paid in rent “froze,” staying the same from year to year, and the government would pick up the rest—saving her thousands of dollars in the long-term.

I needed to enroll as soon as possible, since my rent was going to go up, but I was worried the paperwork would be too overwhelming to do on my own. Thankfully, I connected with the Mayor’s Public Engagement Unit (PEU) Rent Freeze Hotline at 929-252-7242—and so can you.

I received free, personalized support in filling out the Department of Finance paperwork and was able to successfully freeze my rent. Each year that I renew my lease, I need to submit it to the Department of Finance to maintain my Rent Freeze status; and if I have questions, I can turn to PEU.

In fact, during the pandemic, I was having trouble with the renewal paperwork while our city was shut down. So, I called back the hotline and reconnected with PEU Specialist Hakim. Despite the hurdles we faced, Hakim helped me to renew my status and keep my rent cost frozen—without his help, I would have lost my benefit and had to reapply to freeze my rent at the new increased rate.

If you have a new lease this year and need to renew your Rent Freeze benefit as well, be sure to renew before the June 30, 2022 deadline. PEU can support you. Missing that critical deadline could cost your family thousands.

If you are a New Yorker over age 62 or have a disability, there’s truly no better time than now to apply for New York City’s Rent Freeze Benefits—except for, maybe, yesterday.

There are two types of Rent Freeze benefits provided by the City: Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) for seniors over age 62 and Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) for disabled New Yorkers over 18. New Yorkers have a few requirements to meet in order to be eligible, and you can use this online tool to check your eligibility.

When I enrolled in the program in 2017, my rent was frozen, and it hasn’t gone up since. Since I’ve renewed my Rent Freeze status, I’m now saving nearly $900 per year—that’s more than one month’s rent for me! And each year that I renew again, I’ll continue to save more money. In fact, with the current rate increases starting in October, I could save up to $1,400 per year after the next time I renew my lease. Even more reason to freeze your rent now or make sure to renew.

The paperwork can be intimidating, especially if you are a senior or New Yorker with a disability like me, but help is available. If you need more information about the program or guidance on how to apply—or if you are already enrolled and need help renewing your status—you should reach out to PEU. They worked with me one-on-one to enroll in DRIE— and anyone can call the Rent Freeze Hotline at 929-252-7242 to get free help from a Specialist like Hakim.

I’m sharing my story now to ensure others like me know about the benefits of freezing their rent. We love our home, and I know what it’s like to worry about losing it. With my rent frozen, I can enjoy my family in a whole new way: I love watching my granddaughters’ faces light up with joy at the park near our house, instead of worrying about how I’m going to make next month’s rent. All New Yorkers deserve to feel stable in their housing situation. Don’t let time pass you by; apply (or renew) for Rent Freeze today.

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