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State Sen. Brian Benjamin has proposed a bill that aims to give New York renters a much-needed break. The Harlem Democrat’s bill is modeled after the federal version proposed by Sen. Kamala Harris and would entitle lower-income tenants to a refundable tax credit if their rent and utilities account for a significant portion–over 30 percent–of their income, the Daily News reports.
Benjamin says his bill mirrors Harris’s; he has endorsed her White House bid. “This bill is for the everyday New Yorker,” Benjamin said. “I’m glad to align with her on a good idea that she has brought forward on the federal level and I can implement here in the state and has real impact on people’s lives.”
A significant and growing portion of New Yorkers can be considered rent-burdened according to a study by the non-profit watchdog group Citizens Budget Commission, with about 44 percent of all city households forking over a third of their income toward rent (after rental housing vouchers and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits).
And 91 percent of households who are paying more than 50 percent of their income in rent are low-income New Yorkers. The tax credit’s availability would decrease as household gross income rises; it would cap out at $125,000 a year.
Benjamin, who is chairman of the Senate Revenue and Budget committee, has set his sights on another office–possibly a 2021 run for city comptroller, though he’s said that he’s currently focused on his job in Albany. He views the proposal as a necessary way to fight poverty and homelessness.
“When it comes to legislation like this it’s sort of beyond budgetary concerns that we typically have. We’re going to be looking at that more closely as we go forward. But as far as I’m concerned, this is so important that we can move forward even without having that buttoned down because it’s such a pressing issue for everyday New Yorkers.”
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