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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tenants take issue with price hikes at the Amalgamated

By Adam Wisnieski
Posted

A small group of tenants testified against a proposal to raise rents at the Amalgamated Housing Cooperative last week, but the co-op’s board of directors argues that the increase is necessary to help pay for capital improvements

At the March 6 hearing, hosted by the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal at Amalgamated’s Vladeck Hall, nine tenants spoke against raising rent by $14 per room. Rent at the Amalgamated, including utilities, now costs $196.56 per room. The group, informally led by cooperator Jay Hauben, argues the Amalgamated can avoid a rent increase by taking out a 30-year mortgage instead of the 15-year one the co-op board is currently preparing to sign on to. 

Mr. Hauben argues that a rent increase would make the Amalgamated unaffordable and that the plan would force current tenants to pay for improvements that will benefit future tenants. 

Ed Yaker, president of the Amalgamated co-op board, argued the opposite, saying this plan will “preserve the Amalgamated as affordable housing for the long term, not just the next year or two.”

Mr. Yaker and general manager Charles Zsebedics said a physical needs assessment completed by an architect had determined that capital improvements were necessary. 

The assessment said the parking garage is in desperate need of renovation and that the 41-year-old balconies have outlived their life expectancy and are now in need of major repairs.

Mr. Yaker said the Amalgamated should not have let conditions deteriorate to the extent that they have. 

“We have never had the courage to raise the money we needed to maintain our physical property and that’s why we have the kind of needs we have today,” Mr. Yaker said.

DHCR is expected to make a determination on the rent increase in the coming weeks. The agency, which oversees the Amalgamated because it is a limited-equity housing cooperative, can approve the increase or amend it as it sees fit. DHCR will likely approve some increase. It determined in a budget projection for 2013 that the Amalgamated is operating at a deficit, a point many cooperators challenged.

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