Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Thrifty … not cheap !

I’m talking about my mother-in-law !! She’s no longer with us but I read something about rent controlled apartments in NY City recently and it brought back this memory.

My husband’s mother’s life actually reads like a Dicken’s novel. She came to the United States in the 1920’s on a “potato boat” from Ireland, married the son of the wealthy people who had hired her as a maid, had two boys (one being my husband) and then suffered the loss of her husband at age 39 from a brain aneurism and was disinherited from the family !!

With little more than guts she made her way to New York City and got a job in one of the big department stores. She had very little money but was crafty enough to rent a 4th floor walk-up apartment on East 39th Street under the city’s rent control program.

It was there that I first met her in 1958. My husband had left his job as asst. photographer at “Life” magazine and moved in with her while he got his free lance business started. The thought of walking up three long flights of stairs to get to her apartment, after a long day’s work, was overwhelming to me. I was the ripe old age of 25 at the time and had become very used to elevators. My husband explained that her apartment was one of the coveted rent controlled ones and as long as she stayed there her rent would be substantially lower than others in the area.

As I said, that was 1958 and she stayed on there well into the 1990’s, until old age and her physical condition made it impossible to navigate the stairs any longer. Her location (practically next door to the United Nations) was prime and I believe she was the last one in that building still under the original rent control agreement with the city. As I recall she was paying less than $400 a month when she finally gave it up.

According to the city’s 2011 housing-vacancy survey about 1.8 percent of the city’s rental-housing stock is still rent-controlled and the average price of the units is $800 a month. (That’s a lot of very old people holding on for dear life !!)


Blogger Anvilcloud said...

Good for her. Our SIL's mother is in a situation something like that, I believe. But it ain't in such a prime location.

5:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rent-control is a touchy subject. Yes, it is important to help seniors keep their homes, but landlords have bills too.

I have read that rent control ruined the inventory of rental housing in NYC. The District of Columbia toyed with it for a while too. Housing became run-down as landlords failed to maintain it owing to a lack of resources.

Around here in my county of Arlington VA, the local government is pushing the developement of 'affordable housing' for seniors in need and others. We have a real shortage of housing for service workers and health professionals as well as first responders who all make incomes well below that required to survive in this pricey county.

On the other hand, David and I, who are both seniors on fixed incomes, live in a house that keeps appreciating to the point that we could no longer afford to buy it. I sometimes wonder if the county appreciates the housing to surretiously raise tax revenue as the value of our home is the basis for property taxes, which in turn help fund 'affordable housing.'

Economics = the dismal science which is about "whose ox will be gored." Dianne

7:44 AM  
Blogger troutbirder said...

Mmmmm. I'll choose to be on your mother in laws side. It's less dismal...

8:34 AM  
Blogger Syd said...

Interesting story, Ginnie. I'm glad that she was able to live in such a great location for so little.

5:05 PM  

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