Housing/apartment (280807)
Housing/apartment Credit: Bill Moore photo

According to the Eviction Crisis Monitor, as of June 20, 2021 there are over 230,000 active eviction cases in New York State. That’s a sharp increase from the over 170,000 active cases on March 20, 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic.

This week, Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed an extension to the eviction moratorium further preventing the eviction of tenants who are unable to pay rent.

The moratorium that was scheduled to expire on June 30 is now extended through July 31 and this is intended to be the final extension of the moratorium. However, in New York State, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an extension of the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 in May halting evictions until Aug. 31.

“As we approach the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, it is critical that we continue to protect both New York’s tenants and business owners who have suffered tremendous hardship throughout this entire pandemic,” Cuomo said. “Extending this legislation will help to ensure that vulnerable New Yorkers and business owners who are facing eviction through no fault of their own are able to keep their homes and businesses as we continue on the road to recovery and begin to build back our economy better than it was before.”

The Supreme Court solidified the nation’s eviction moratorium in a 5-4 vote this week after a plea from landlords and real estate trade associations to the CDC. Property owners argued that the moratorium is costing “$13 billion a month in unpaid rent” while proponents say evicting people and making them homeless would spread COVID-19.

In an interview with the AmNews, Stephanie Rudolph, deputy director of housing justice organization JustFix.nyc, said that most people needing the moratorium fall into the category of going through financial hardships or health-related issues. Rent relief for tenants is available through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) from the federal government, which the state is currently rolling out.

“Those tenants who qualify should fill out the hardship declaration,” Rudolph said. “Tenants are suing their landlord for bad conditions or harassment. The conditions tenants are dealing with right now are really bad because landlords may be unable to evict them formally so they’re doing all kinds of harassment to try to get people to leave.”

Data from the Eviction Crisis Monitor indicates that Black and Latino tenants in the city are experiencing the highest levels of eviction cases, especially in the Bronx. In the Fordham/Kingsbridge/University Heights section of the Bronx landlords have sued over 50 families per 1,000 units.

While the eviction moratorium is good news for some renters, the city’s Rent Guidelines Board recently voted to increase rents for lease renewals beginning Oct. 1.

One-year leases will be 0% for the first six months and then a 1.5% increase for the second six months, with two-year leases increasing by 2.5%. It is a reversal of last year’s vote for a 0% increase for 1-year leases and a 1% increase for the second year of two-year leases.

“All rent increases, no matter how small, lead to evictions and displacements. The Rent Guidelines Board has made a cruel and shameful decision today, endorsing the false narrative that landlords have suffered more than tenants during the pandemic,” said Ava Farkas, executive director of Met Council on Housing. “The majority of rent-stabilized New Yorkers are still struggling financially.”