New York tenant advocates are demanding billions in funding for housing and a suspension of rent, mortgage and utility payments during the coronavirus outbreak.
The coalition, Housing Justice for All, is using a public health crisis to push its solution for the 92,000 people who are homeless across the state. The group is asking for $10 billion to invest in “housing relief,” demanding homeless persons be immediately rehoused in vacant homes, and asking for rental subsidies in the form of vouchers. The funding would also support public housing, not-for-profit housing and subsidized housing.
The group is also calling for the state to suspend rent, mortgage and utility payments, on the heels of a statewide eviction ban in place since Monday.
“An eviction moratorium is an urgent first step, but we need a suspension of unaffordable rent and automatic forgiveness of any rent or mortgage, utility, or rent owed or accumulated during the length of this crisis,” the plan reads.
The tenant coalition also seeks to block any landlord from price gouging any commercial or residential tenant who cannot pay rent, and points out that “mom-and-pop” landlords would also benefit from a mortgage suspension. The state has not said yet whether it will place a moratorium on mortgages, as it did for evictions, but sources say the Office of Court Administration is in active discussions with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office to do so.
It is unclear what path forward any of these measures will have. Cuomo has said he will push through a budget at the end of this week, instead of April 1st, and approving new funding for housing during a public health crisis may be difficult.
Yet the tenant coalition says the connection between health and secure housing is more evident than ever.
“Housing is healthcare,” a spokesperson for HJ4A said. “An eviction moratorium is the first step, but right now it’s critical that every New Yorker is safely housed, especially those who are currently without homes or most in danger of losing their homes due to loss of income.”