Facing Eviction, Widowed Seniors Turns to MinKwon Center
In June 2013, her husband passed away and Ms. Park was forced to live off of her social security, which is approximately $800 a month. While coping with the loss of her spouse, she continued to pay the frozen rent at $713.00 and use the remaining to support her livelihood. In September 2014, Ms. Park received a Notice of Eviction claiming that she owed up to $10,000 in rent arears for rent owed from July 2013. Ms. Park is a limited English speaker and could not read or understand why she was being evicted. Unknown to Ms. Park, the SCRIE benefit that was under her husband’s name had ended when he passed away in July 2013 and she did not file for a Benefit Takeover within 60 days as required. SCRIE recipients are given no notice of this requirement and applications are provided only in English online or by calling 311.
The MinKwon Center represented Ms. Kyung Ja Park, an 82-year-old widow who was on the verge of being evicted from her home and helped her settle a case in which she owed $10,185.00 in rent arrears and legal fees. Ms. Park lived in her rent-stabilized apartment for 22 years in Flushing, Queens until her spouse passed away in June 2013. When they first moved into the apartment in 1996, her husband applied for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (“SCRIE”) in his name and their rent was frozen at $713.00. Known as SCRIE, the program allows renters 62 and older to “freeze” their rent at the current level if they live in rent-regulated apartments and the household income is below $50,000. The purpose of SCRIE was to enable low income elderly tenants to continue residing in their apartments despite rent increases with the understanding that there is a continuing housing shortage that will especially have an adverse effect on seniors in New York City.
The MinKwon Center represented Ms. Park in Housing Court in Queens and started a federal lawsuit against the New York City Department of Finance (“DOF”). Both cases were resolved and Ms. Park’s rent was reinstated to $713.00 and she will be able to remain in her home. “I went to several organizations looking for help on my case but none of them would even take a look at it until I came to the MinKwon Center. For seniors, SCRIE is difficult to understand and follow procedurally. I am very happy with the results of the case and truly appreciate and am grateful to Lina Lee and the MinwKon Center,” said Ms. Park. “Programs like SCRIE allow seniors like Ms. Park to remain in their homes while rents in New York City continue to rise. The unannounced 60-day deadline defeats the purpose of the program and makes it especially difficult for the elderly in our community who don't speak English fluently,” said Grace Shim, Executive Director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action.
The MinKwon Center is still currently involved in the pending federal SCRIE lawsuit with Legal Services NYC against the DOF, Commissioner Jacques Jiha, and the City of New York. DOF is now adding new staff to handle SCRIE applications and develop new outreach methods to publicize the program and its requirements.