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politico – New York lawmakers approve moratorium on evictions

Protesters held signs at the Brooklyn Housing Court during a “No Evictions, No Police” national day of action in New York City. | Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images

ALBANY, NY – A sweeping eviction ban that was brought forward to the New York state legislature on Monday led to landowner groups saying the measure would hurt struggling landlords, while tenant advocates have warned that it was only a temporary solution.

Details: The bill would stop evictions and foreclosures in the state for 60 days, and allow tenants and mortgages who have lost their jobs or income due to the pandemic to submit financial hardship reports that would stop these proceedings until ‘on May 1. Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday he would sign the law.

The Democratic-led state Senate passed it by an almost online vote in the afternoon, and the Assembly, which Democrats also control, was set to do the same later in the afternoon. day.

The measure comes as the state grapples with what are presumably billions of dollars in rent arrears owed by tenants financially affected by the pandemic. The National Council of State Housing Agencies commissioned a report earlier this year that estimated New York could face a rental shortfall of up to $ 3.4 billion by January.

Tenant advocates have been pushing for a broad moratorium for months, warning of a wave of evictions as existing protections were due to expire in January. Several housing groups have lauded the passage of the bill, while urging the legislature to pass substantial rent relief or a pardon in the coming months. Homeowner groups, meanwhile, say their members can’t swallow months of missed rent payments and note that many homeowners struggle to keep up with property taxes and utility bills.

The measure has some advantages for small homeowners – those with 10 units or less could have access to foreclosure protections and sales of tax liens. But homeowner groups say the measure covers too wide a range of tenants and could amount to rent vacation for tenants who can afford to pay.

Debate: Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, a group of homeowners, called the move a “stall tactic.”

“No tenant facing financial hardship should be evicted during a pandemic, but the cost of providing free housing cannot be fully borne by landlords,” he said in a statement. “If tenants interpret this bill as a justification for not paying rent, the damage to our economy and local budgets will be immense.”

Joseph Strasburg, head of the Rent Stabilization Association, another landlord group, argued that the measure would benefit many tenants who do not need help, noting that the “financial hardship statement” that tenants could submit does not require proof of economic hardship.

Members of Republican minorities in both chambers have raised similar concerns about the breadth of the bill.

“I’m just scared because [tenants] don’t need a lot of documents, they don’t need to really prove they’re unemployed or have any of those things or conditions, ”State Senator Betty Little said ( R-Queensbury).

Assembly member Brian Manktelow (R-Lyons) said the current moratorium on rents has given his constituents the opportunity to abuse the system, which has helped the pandemic spread.

“They’re going to buy big televisions, new cars, to socialize, that’s part of the reason there’s a wide spread,” he said. “I saw it [and] I’ve watched it.

State Senator Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan), chair of the housing committee, said the bill was “not a vacation rental” and noted that it would be illegal for a tenant and to other persons covered by the measure to sign a declaration of hardship contains false information.

“The problem we are facing in New York is that we believe there are about 1 million renter households behind on their rent,” Kavanagh said at a committee meeting on Monday. “Any process that is supposed to determine which of these people is having difficulty and which is not,” we concluded when drafting this bill, would be ineffective.

And after: Lawmakers have said the extended ban gives them time to create a larger housing assistance program and distribute relief funds. A $ 100 million rent relief program was approved over the summer, but less than half of that money has been distributed so far. New York will receive additional rental assistance funding as part of the latest federal stimulus package.

Tenant groups welcomed the state’s measure but called for further measures.

“This bill is only a temporary solution to the urgent housing crisis we find ourselves in,” the Housing Justice for All coalition said in a statement. “In order to avert massive economic disaster, our legislature must erase the rent owed by New Yorkers and create a contingency fund for small landlords struggling to keep their buildings safe and afloat.”

Judith Goldiner, senior counsel at the Legal Aid Society, said lawmakers must “remain open to improving this legislation if we still find ourselves seriously mired in the pandemic in May.

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