Elderly Woman Gets Rent Doubled, Harlem Community Fights Back

Eva CadeEva Cade is a 60-year-old woman who is also disabled—and if the rent increase she got this summer isn’t stopped, she is basically doomed to homelessness. 

She has lived in 484 Convent Ave., a low-income co-op (HDFC) in west Harlem, for over 20 years. She couldn’t afford to buy her apartment and become a shareholder in the co-op, as she lives on SSI, Social Security disability payments. She has been living in the building as a tenant. Her rent was $830 a month—until recently, when the co-op board more than doubled it, to $1,717. 

Cade came to RENA (Riverside Edgecombe Neighborhood Association) with her problem in August. As she now lives in a very large apartment, she would be willing to move into a smaller one, and there’s a two-bedroom apartment across the hall from her that is now vacant. She and RENA sent the co-op board president a letter asking that they let her move into that apartment, and charge her what she can afford to pay. Surely a co-op HDFC, whose purpose is to keep low- and moderate-income tenants in affordable homes, should not cause their long-time neighbor, a senior citizen, to be placed into a shelter!

The board did not respond, so RENA organized a community response. It contacted local elected officials. City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, Assemblymember Herman D. Farrell, and State Senator Adriano Espaillat all sent letters to the co-op board supporting Cade. 

“We believe that leaving this disabled senior citizen homeless is not an acceptable compromise,” Rodriguez wrote on Sept. 12. “We are writing to urge you to seek a more humane and plausible solution.”

When there was still no response, RENA organized a demonstration to take place on Sept. 30. Several other community organizations promised to come, along with local elected officials, members of Community Board 12, and the Real Rent Reform Coalition, a city-wide coalition of tenant groups. RENA went to the building and told a board member about the plans to hold a protest there.

The next week, Eva Cade’s lawyer informed RENA that the board did not want the demonstration, and that they were willing to negotiate.

The demonstration was called off, as a show of good faith, but if the negotiations do not proceed well, we will be back!

 

Jeanie Dubnau is a member of RENA.