The New York State legislature has approved an extension of a moratorium on evictions through August 31, saying the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic aren’t over. Opponents say the measure doesn’t do enough to help landlords, and should end earlier.
The protections for tenants and small landlords ended May 1. Under the extension, renters could continue through August to cite economic hardship caused by the pandemic as a reason for not paying their rent. The measure also continues a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures for landlords.
There are penalties for those who misrepresent their financial situation.
Supporters said it’s needed because many New Yorkers are still struggling financially. Sen. Robert Jackson, a Democrat who represents a district that includes the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, said his constituents have been hit hard by the pandemic and are still “digging out.”
“I represent 13 miles of Manhattan and you may think that Manhattan has all of the wealth of the state of New York….I have tens of thousands of residents, tenants, that are struggling to survive,” Jackson said.
Senate sponsor Brian Kavanagh, also a Manhattan Democrat, said even though infection rates are going down and the number of vaccinated New Yorkers is rising, the pandemic's effects aren’t over, and preventing evictions helps stem the spread of the virus.
“We are not out of the woods yet,” said Kavanagh, who added the bill’s “principle purpose is as a public health measure to prevent all of us from getting sick and extending this pandemic unnecessarily.”
Opponents, including many Republicans in the Senate, argue that the moratorium should end sooner.
Sen. Pamela Helming of Canandaigua said the CDC recommends that the tenant protections should end June 30. Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state will largely be reopening on May 19.
Helming, a Republican, said extending the measure further only delays a looming housing crisis, and will “kick this can down the road” and lead people to go further into debt.
Sen. Anthony Palumbo, a Long Island Republican, said the measure does not provide enough protections for landlords. Palumbo said when the current measure runs out, tenants will have to pay back the rent money that they owe. He said many might not have those resources. Landlords, however, hold the deeds to the properties, and if the lack of rent causes them to miss mortgage payments, they will end up in foreclosure.
He said the landlords he represents are not the multimillionaire and billionaire “big, bad landlords” but people who purchased two- or three-unit buildings.
“Those are the folks who rely on that income from small commercial mixed-use buildings for their retirement,” said Palumbo, who added some used their life savings to purchase the property.
Palumbo and others who voted against the measure said the state’s tenants and landlords would benefit more from the $2.4 billion in federal rental assistance relief approved in March. But they said the state has been slow to distribute those funds.
Kavanagh said he thinks once those funds are distributed, the majority of the back payments will be made.
The measure was also approved in the state Assembly.
A spokesman for Governor Cuomo says the bill is under review.