New York’s pandemic-inspired eviction moratorium is set to expire on Saturday, but those facing potential eviction from their homes still have a key option to protect themselves.
The statewide moratorium has been in place for more than 20 months and has been extended twice amid the current COVID crisis, preventing the deportation of thousands of New York residents during a period of great economic uncertainty.
But state lawmakers left the Capitol as scheduled on Wednesday without passing a bill to extend it further, a day after Governor Kathy Hochul signaled that it would effectively expire on Jan. 15.
“What we want to do is let people know that this is over very soon,” Hochul said Tuesday during a COVID-19 briefing in Manhattan.
There have been 81,530 deportation cases in New York since March 15, 2020, according to Princeton University’s Deportation Lab, which has been tracking cases in 31 U.S. cities since the pandemic began.
Those cases had effectively been put on hold while the state’s moratorium remained in place. And many of them won’t move forward, especially for New Yorkers who eventually received state rent assistance.
But some of them will – unless the tenant applies for the Housing Assistance Scheme, which would offer them some protection.
How did we get here?
New York State’s eviction moratorium dates back to March 2020, when New York City was the first national epicenter of the pandemic. There were closures, people were working from home and many were losing their jobs altogether.
In April 2020, the state’s unemployment rate soared to 16% from 4% the previous month. So-Gov. Andrew Cuomo – who had been granted extraordinary powers by lawmakers at the time – issued an order blocking the execution of any eviction proceedings.
In December of that year, the state legislature enacted a new law: the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act.
This law provided for a temporary suspension of eviction proceedings if a tenant filed a form certifying that they had suffered financial hardship caused by the pandemic, whether it was a loss of employment, a reduction in salary or any other related item.
This moratorium was first put in place until May 2021, then extended until September and a final time until January 15, 2022, when it will expire.
I am in danger of deportation. What can I do?
Even with the moratorium expiring, those struggling financially and at risk of deportation still have one key lever they can act on — essentially a bureaucratic workaround.
The state’s Emergency Rent Assistance Program (ERAP) was launched last year to provide up to 15 months of rent and utility payments on behalf of tenants who are struggling to reach ends meet during the pandemic.
The program was funded with $2.4 billion in federal stimulus funds. And at this point, that money has been pretty much wiped out (aside from a handful of counties, including Nassau and Dutchess). But anyone who files an application with ERAP is protected from deportation as long as their application is pending.
So anyone at risk of losing their home can apply for the funding and get protection from eviction, even if there is no money available. And while there is no funding available, the state will not process the applications they receive, which means they will remain on hold.
Hochul touted this option for renters on Tuesday, the day the state reopened the application process after a state judge ordered it to do so.
“There is also another option which is to reopen the gate, which … has the same effect in terms of allowing people to take advantage of a situation if they are unable to pay their rent,” Hochul said.
Residents can apply for PARE here.
Eligible New York City residents may also take advantage of the free services of housing attorneys under the Right to Counsel Act passed by the New York City Council. Anyone facing eviction can call 311, where they will be connected with a hired attorney through free legal services offices. More information can be found here.
Will the Emergency Housing Assistance Program get more funding?
It’s possible, but it hasn’t been very good so far.
The Hochul administration formally requested an additional $1 billion for the program from the federal government late last year, after exhausting its initial $2.4 billion allocation.
Earlier this month, the Treasury Department informed the state that it would receive an additional $27 million, well below what it had requested.
Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams were among those pushing the federal government to reconsider and provide more funding.
“It’s insulting to our state and it won’t solve the problem we need to solve,” Adams said of the $27 million.
The owners, meanwhile, are asking the state to contribute $2 billion of its own money to the program.
Hochul is due to present his state budget proposal on Tuesday.
“Tens of thousands of low-income New Yorkers are struggling,” said Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, a homeowners organization. “The only solution is to pay their rent. ERAP will do so if it is fully funded.
Will the courts be able to handle a plethora of eviction proceedings?
It’s unclear exactly how many deportation cases remain in New York.
Statewide, there are approximately 224,000 pending eviction cases that have been put on hold during the moratorium, according to the Office of Court Management. But Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for the justice system, said the number was likely “grossly overstated”.
Why? Because even the court system doesn’t know how many of these cases have already been settled, either because of the rental assistance program or because of some other landlord-tenant agreement. The courts will have a better idea when cases officially resume next week.
Since September 2021, the justice system has added new deportation cases to the calendar as they arise. Those cases previously suspended by the eviction moratorium — known as “hardship declaration stays” — will soon return to the schedule, Chalfen said.
“All of our parts of the court have heard, adjudicated, adjudicated and decided cases that are unaffected by the stays throughout,” he said in an email.
Will Albany take long-term action on evictions?
Tenant advocates and progressive lawmakers are using the expiring moratorium to push for legislation known as the Just Cause Eviction Bill.
The bill would essentially grant tenants a right to an extension when their lease expires, unless the landlord has good reason to evict them – such as the tenant failing to pay rent violates a substantial part of his lease or uses the house for illegal purposes. . It would also limit annual rent increases, linking them to the rate of inflation.
“We really need to fight for long-term sustainable policies to deal with this unfolding crisis,” said Sen. Julia Salazar, a Brooklyn Democrat sponsoring the bill. during a virtual town hall on Tuesday. “And that’s what the evictions for cause bill seeks to do.”
Landlords oppose the measure, saying it would create a system in which problem tenants have an indefinite right to their rents. In the meantime, limiting their ability to raise rents could lead to some properties falling into disrepair, landlords warn.
Hochul has yet to take a position on the measure.