Eighty-six-year-old Milton G. moved into the Riverview Senior Independent Living facility in Hell’s Kitchen just a few months ago. He moved to the area to be closer to family after his partner of 30 years entered a nursing home. He hadn’t even fully unpacked when he and all the other tenants got a letter. The facility was being sold – “sometime in the first few months of 2020” – and everyone would have to leave.
There are 31 residents of the facility, mostly in their 70s, 80s and 90s. Most are in a panic about where to go. As the New York Times notes, we’re in an affordable housing crisis. Low- and middle-income seniors are especially struggling to find affordable places to live.
The Riverview’s smallest apartment, which includes housekeeping, three daily meals and social events, is around $4,000 a month. That makes it a stretch even for middle-income folks.
But it’s not just affordability; it’s also availability. Many of the residents won’t be able to find a comparable home in the area. The Times found a Salvation Army-run facility in Harlem with space, but that’s too far for many at the Riverview. Their best option is probably the West 74th Street Residence, which is slightly cheaper but with less charm.
According to the Times, the Riverview is owned by Homes for the Homeless, a nonprofit that mostly operates homeless shelters. They decided to open the Riverview in 2018 after having success with a similar project on Staten Island. Unfortunately, only 35 of the 82 apartments ever got filled.
Has the facility done enough to protect residents?
Riverview residents argue that the facility hasn’t done enough to market itself and sometimes fails to follow up with potential residents who are interested. The CEO of Homes for the Homeless told the Times that the project is operating at a loss and is most likely failing because it doesn’t offer assisted living services, which many older people look for when planning for the future.
If it had been an assisted living facility, the Riverview would have been regulated by the Department of Health – and the residents would have additional protections from eviction. As it stands, they are renting month to month, which gives them few protections.
The residents also argue that the Riverside repeatedly reassured them about the facility’s prospects and continued signing new contracts even when it must have known it was going to be sold.
The seniors have formed a committee and are lobbying officials for more time and support. They’re also exploring their options with an attorney.
If your building is sold, you may have rights as a tenant. Contact an experienced landlord-tenant lawyer for help.