Responding to dire predictions that thousands of New Yorkers, unable to make rent because of COVID-19, could soon wind up on the street, a group of state lawmakers want to block landlords from evicting tenants until the end of the year.
The new legislation would extend Governor Andrew Cuomo's moratorium on evictions, which is set to expire on June 18th, for an additional six months from when the State of Emergency is declared over.
"That moratorium, while welcome, is not enough," Manhattan Senator Brad Hoylman, who introduced the legislation on Tuesday, told Gothamist. "We have to create this safe harbor to give tenants time to get back on their feet."
The bill would ensure tenants cannot be removed from their homes for unpaid rent for the duration of the public health crisis. It would not suspend rent altogether, as other state lawmakers have proposed, and would still allow landlords to sue delinquent tenants for monetary judgements.
But housing attorneys said the bill is a critical first step in addressing a looming evictions crisis that Cuomo has largely waved off.
"Without any state action, there are going to be New Yorkers across the state who will be unable to pay their rent, and very soon the courts are going to reopen and the cases will start piling up," said Ellen Davidson, a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society. "This is a step in the right direction to ensure we don't end up with hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in the street at a moment when coronavirus is wreaking havoc on the homeless population."
Expert predict that as many as 40 percent of New York tenants may be forced to skip April rent payments, as COVID-19 containment measures have pushed unemployment to historic levels. Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, who introduced a companion bill in the State Assembly, said that tenants who'd lost income during the pandemic were now facing "a ticking time bomb."
For his part, Cuomo has repeatedly insisted the "rent issue" was solved through the three-month eviction moratorium. He has declined to support a bill with bipartisan support that would cancel rent payments and provide relief to landlords as well.