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As the Rent Guidelines Board prepares to vote on how much to raise rents on the city’s rent-stabilized apartments, a new report shows that low-income renters are already struggling like never before. “Making the Rent,” a paper released last week by Victor Bach, senior housing policy analyst at the Community Service Society, looked at local Census data collected between 1993-2002. While increases in median rent and median income kept pace overall, the gap between rent and income widened dramatically among the poor. By the end of the decade, a whopping 74 percent of poor households in regulated apartments were paying more than 50 percent of their earnings to rent, as were 77 percent in unregulated apartments. Paying more for rent leaves less money for other household needs, the paper explains. Of families who had fallen behind in rent or mortgage payments, 36 percent also had their gas, electricity or phone cut off at some point last year; 40 percent had skipped or postponed medical care; and 59 percent had used a food pantry or meal program. Yet there are solutions, argues Bach: Keep rent guideline increases low; even out taxes so rental-property owners don’t bear an unfair burden; target more housing to the poor; and preserve existing subsidized housing programs. [06/20/05]

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