As millions of New Yorkers are struggling to pay rent, the state government senses this depravity and passed a law Thursday hoping to avoid mass evictions.
On May 28, the State Legislature passed a bill to enact the Emergency Rent Relief Act of 2020. This measure will provide rental assistance vouchers to landlords on behalf of tenants who have experienced an increase in rent burden due to a loss of income resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program will be administered through the NYS Division of Homes and Community Renewal (DHCR). $100,000,000 will be allocated towards this program. The coverage period spans April 1, through July 31.
It is estimated that the bill will provide relief for between 25,000 to 40,000 New Yorkers statewide. Households are eligible for rental relief if: their household income is below 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) prior to March 7 and at the time of application, such household has a rent burden both prior to March 7 and at the time of application (a tenant has a rent burden if their rent is more than 30 percent of the household income) and lastly such household has lost income during the covered period.
The subsidy is effectuated as a voucher that is paid directly to landlords to bridge the financial gap between an individual’s pre-COVID rent burden and their new rent burden, up to 125 percent of the Fair Market Rent (FMR). The act does not cover NYCHA residents.
Senator Alessandra Biaggi feels this bill will take a huge load of the shoulder of New Yorkers. However, the senator feels that in addition to the bill, there needs to be a full rent and mortgage suspension.
“I am not under any illusion that this bill is satisfactory,” Biaggi said. “Millions of New Yorkers are struggling to make their rent payments and simply survive — this legislation does not come close to providing the necessary relief. The Emergency Rent Relief Act’s limited scope offers assistance to only a marginal number of New Yorkers, leaving many with little to no recourse. I share in the same disappointment that so many renters and advocates have rightfully expressed. But our fight for housing justice is not over yet.
Biaggi added, “Suspending rent and mortgage payments for New Yorkers struggling from the impact of COVID-19 is one of the most efficient, effective and human-centered ways we can provide relief. The legislative session is not over, we will be back to deliver for our communities.”