Highlands legislators vote against new Jan. 15 deadline
Tenants facing eviction due to pandemic-related income losses or inability to work because of illness will get nearly five more months of protection under state legislation passed on Wednesday (Sept. 1) and signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Legislators voted to extend the eviction moratorium, which expired on Tuesday (Aug. 31), to Jan. 15 to give renters additional time to apply for and receive funding from the state Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The federally funded program covers up to 12 months of overdue rent and unpaid utilities accrued since March 13, 2020, and also provides three months of assistance to people at risk of losing their housing.
The extended moratorium also protects homeowners from foreclosure and businesses with 100 or fewer employees who can prove they are experiencing a pandemic-related hardship.
New York has approved more than $1.2 billion in assistance and sent over $300 million in payments to some 23,000 landlords as of Tuesday, including $1.2 million in Dutchess County and $307,000 in Putnam. Beacon tenants had submitted 87 applications for assistance with rent and utilities, and 57 for aid to maintain their housing. The state reported 13 applications in Garrison and none in Cold Spring. (For information, see bit.ly/renter-aid.)
Sen. Sue Serino, a Republican whose district includes the Highlands, Assembly Member Sandy Galef, a Democrat whose district includes Philipstown, and Assembly Member Jonathan Jacobson, a Democrat whose district includes Beacon, each voted against the extension.
In a statement on Thursday, Serino said the extension amounted to “kicking the can down the road again” and “threatening to drive mom-and-pop landlords out of the rental business, which ultimately will only exacerbate our growing affordable housing shortage.”
“I voted against the extension not because I don’t care about tenants, but because I do,” she said. “I know they cannot afford to pay the long-term consequences of the actions the Legislature took yesterday.”
Jacobson said on Thursday that he considered an extension unnecessary because people who have applied for assistance are guaranteed protection from eviction while their paperwork is being processed, and that the continued moratorium will protect people who owed rent before the pandemic started.
He also said that small landlords “have been hurt” by the moratorium because they have had to pay maintenance, property taxes and other expenses while being unable to collect back rent.
Galef said on Friday (Sept. 3): “During this pandemic the state legislature has tried to help both tenants and landlords when facing potential evictions. The bill before us this week was, in my view, not a compromise that would help both tenants and landlords equally Small landlords are particularly impacted by receiving no rent payments for over 15 or more months without any ability to collect rent. There was little help for them in this legislation.”
In addition to giving renters and homeowners more time, the law authorizes $25 million for legal services to represent tenants defending themselves against eviction and $250 million in rental assistance to households that earn between 80 percent and 120 percent of area median income. Federal guidelines had restricted the funding to people at or below 80 percent of the median. Serino, Galef and Jacobson all voted yes on these two provisions.
Landlords may still evict tenants who do not submit a hardship declaration or are unable to prove their arrears are due to the pandemic. Tenants also can be evicted if they are creating health or safety hazards or intentionally damaging property.