In announcing the $1000/year maintenance increase last month, the board neglected to expand an important safety net for shareholders with limited means: Maintenance Security for seniors.
The coop can’t survive on a fixed income. Basic costs like taxes, fuel, water, and insurance are always rising. Occasional increases to our monthly maintenance are inevitable.
But some cooperators, including some of our many seniors, do live on a fixed income, and asking them to suddenly come up with an additional $1000 per year could price them out of East River and force them to sell.
The coop should immediately institute a Maintenance Security enrollment program that would guarantee no senior on a fixed income is priced out of their home by the board’s maintenance increases.
The coop has had a program like this in the past. Before reconstitution in 1997, certain cooperators qualified for New York City’s SCRIE program. This protected seniors and others on a fixed income from rent increases. When the coop reconstituted in 1997, the coop made provisions for a substitute SCRIE program that would continue to protect those cooperators — maintenance increases are deferred until the shares are transferred, at which point the coop collects all past due plus interest.
But the coop has never opened enrollment to anyone new, even though almost 20 years have passed. Seniors today are not protected from the current maintenance increase, or any increase to come.
Just as cooperators’ circumstances change, the coop’s policies need to adapt. In particular, if we are committed to remaining a naturally occurring retirement community (NORC) we need to give seniors more than just free flu shots — we need to tell them they won’t be pushed out of their homes.
The application would be simple — NYC still has guidelines for their public program we could adopt. The cost to the coop would be zero, since all maintenance due is eventually paid back with interest. But most important, we could communicate clearly to everyone who lives here the sort of cooperative community this is.