A 10% rent hike at the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority's Marine Drive Apartments is being delayed two months in response to a lawsuit filed by former BMHA Commissioner Joseph A. Mascia.
The BMHA in December 2016 notified Marine Drive residents it was seeking a rent increase, which state housing officials approved Aug. 22, BMHA officials said. The BMHA then notified residents their rent would increase Oct. 1, officials said.
But Mascia, who lives at Marine Drive, argued in court papers filed last week by attorney Samuel A. Alba that the increase was illegal because tenants weren't given the required 60 days notice. Before the case was heard in court, the BMHA on Tuesday delayed the increase until December.
"Notwithstanding the fact that we had notified the residents of our request for a rent increase as long as two years ago, we are sensitive to the fact that our low-income tenants may have trouble budgeting for a rent increase with only 30 days notice," said BMHA executive director Gillian D. Brown.
Rents at Marine Drive currently range from $305 to $567 including utilities per month. With the 10 percent increase, the new range will be $335 to $623 for the mix of one to four-bedroom units, according to BMHA documents.
The complex has about 600 lease holders, the agency said.
About 100 of those tenants are currently paying more than a third of their monthly family net income for rent, and their rents will not increase, BMHA officials said.
This is the first rent increase at Marine Drive since 2004, the agency said. Rental income at the complex currently generates $2.8 million annually, and is forecast to generate $3.1 million following the increase, according to the housing agency.
“Even with the rent increase, Marine Drive Apartments will still be running at a $240,000 annual deficit, however, the 10% increase will help bridge that gap, and bring those rents more in line with what tenants are paying at our other developments,” Brown has said.
Mascia, 74, said he can afford the 10% rent increase, but filed the lawsuit out of concern for those tenants who will have trouble adjusting their budgets to pay the higher rent.
Mascia served as a tenant-elected BMHA commissioner from 2006 until 2016, when he was removed from the board for making racist comments for which he later apologized.