ALBANY, N. Y.—New York lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday to extend the state’s eviction moratorium until Jan. 15, a move they said would give officials more time to distribute rental assistance funds after the Supreme Court struck down federal protections last month.
Gov. Kathy Hochul ordered a special session of the Legislature to extend the moratorium and amend a state eviction-protection law that was stayed by a separate Supreme Court ruling. The state and federal moratoriums expired on Tuesday night.
Ms. Hochul, a Democrat, said that allowing evictions to proceed could exacerbate homelessness. “We are not going to abandon our neighbors in need,” she said at a Tuesday news conference.
The legislation was approved Wednesday night by the Democrat-dominated state Assembly and Senate over Republican objections. A spokeswoman for Ms. Hochul said she would sign the measure on Thursday.
A dozen other states, including California, Oregon and Virginia, have some form of eviction ban still on the books, according to the Urban Institute, a Washington think tank. Nationwide, millions of Americans have fallen behind on their rent and many face potential eviction now that the federal ban has ended.
Estimates vary on how many New Yorkers are behind on rent and at possible risk of eviction. For the month of August, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said some 156,000 New Yorker households were behind on rent because of financial hardships caused by the pandemic, with an average debt of $9,200. U.S. Census surveys suggest that some 700,000 New York adults could live in households behind on their rent for any reason.
As of Aug. 23, New York has distributed about $203 million of its $2.3 billion Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which is mostly fueled by federal funds. Through the end of July, the U.S. Treasury Department said that nationally about 11% of more than $46 billion in total aid had been distributed to landlords and tenants.
New York groups representing both landlords and tenants have criticized the slow rollout of the state’s rental assistance program, which was approved in April and opened to applicants on June 1. Around 176,000 people have applied for assistance and 46,327 applications were approved as of Aug. 23, according to the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.
Jay Martin, executive director of the landlord group Community Housing Improvement Program, said a longer moratorium would simply forestall rather than prevent evictions if the state program wasn’t amended.
“This conversation that a moratorium is helping to get the money out the door is just not reality,” he said.
The bill approved Wednesday would also amend a 2020 state law that allowed tenants to avoid eviction if they declared a pandemic-induced financial hardship. Around 40,000 tenants in New York City have filed declarations, a court official recently said.
Several landlords and a lobbying organization, the Rent Stabilization Association, challenged the self-attestation practice in federal court. They said landlords were denied due process because they didn’t have a chance to legally respond to the declarations. The Supreme Court stayed the law.
Randy Mastro, a lawyer who represents landlords, said the extension legislation “would not pass legal muster” because it continued to tilt the legal balance in favor of tenants over landlords.
Ellen Davidson, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society, which represents low-income tenants, said the extension legislation would address the Supreme Court’s concerns. Extending the moratorium was an important public health measure because it would prevent tenants from gathering in courthouses during a time of higher infection rates, she said.
Under the extended New York moratorium, tenants will still have to fill out hardship declaration forms to be protected from eviction. An extended New York moratorium would also continue to protect small landlords from mortgage foreclosures, if they can show that they have experienced a loss of income or a rise in costs during the pandemic.
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