Assembly speaker fast-tracks rent relief bill

Heastie steers measure around housing committee, which was set to vote this morning

TRD New York /
May.May 28, 2020 12:39 PM
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (Getty)

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (Getty)

A rent-relief bill facing an uphill battle in the Assembly’s housing committee will head to the chamber floor for a vote after Speaker Carl Heastie abruptly canceled the committee meeting this morning.

The Rent Relief Act of 2020 would provide $100 million in rental vouchers to landlords whose tenants can prove they qualify, but apparently would not have made it past the housing committee.

“They were worried they didn’t have the votes in the committee, so they’re bypassing it,” said Assembly member Harvey Epstein, who serves on the housing committee.

Tenant advocates have raised numerous concerns about the bill, which sources say is likely to pass the Senate and Assembly today.

The decision to cancel the committee’s meeting was made after Heastie had a series of one-on-one conversations with its members, said Assembly member Walter Mosley, another member of the housing committee, who represents Bedford-Stuyvesant and Fort Greene and is a sponsor of the bill.

“The speaker had conversations with all these members to gauge the sentiment of the committee and the chair,” Mosley said, referring to committee head Steve Cymbrowitz of Brooklyn. “I know there were members who felt like the bill could have been a little more robust on a number of issues.”

Mosley said he did not know why Heastie had canceled the meeting, but acknowledged the move was unusual. He chalked it up to the unique challenges of legislating during a pandemic.

“We’re not living in typical times, and this is not a typical session,” Mosley said.

A spokesperson for Heastie offered another explanation, saying the meeting was canceled an hour before it was planned to save time with the Jewish holiday of Shavuot beginning Thursday evening.

“For the sake of expediency, and because the bill was already on the Ways and Means [Committee] agenda, we re-referenced it to save time and out of respect for the religious observance,” the Assembly spokesperson said.

Some members of the assembly called that explanation “dishonest,” and the spokesperson did not respond to requests to clarify. The religious holiday does not explain the last-minute cancellation, Epstein said.

“That’s not democratic,” said Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou, a member of the housing committee who said she was waiting for a Zoom link to start the meeting when she received a notification it was canceled. “I even put a blazer on!”

Tenant advocates have raised concerns that the bill is not sufficient to address many renters’ financial hardship and does not actually provide assistance to tenants, but instead gives a rental voucher to landlords.

To qualify for the assistance, tenants would need to demonstrate that they earned below 80 percent of area median income before the pandemic. Its primary sponsor, Sen. Brian Kavanagh, acknowledged that process places a greater burden on undocumented tenants. The bill’s modest price tag — $100 million — is also not expected to stretch very far, after a quarter of New York tenants did not pay rent in May.


Related Articles

arrow_forward_ios
San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston and San Francisco Apartment Association Executive Director Janan New

Real estate groups challenge San Fran’s permanent ban on coronavirus-related evictions

Real estate groups challenge San Fran’s permanent ban on coronavirus-related evictions
Malls are hemorrhaging retailers left and right. What will happen with all that space? Some could be converted into apartments and condominiums. (iStock)

Retail-to-residential conversions are in cards at America’s doomed malls

Retail-to-residential conversions are in cards at America’s doomed malls
Photo illustration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Judge C. Stephen Hackeling and Chief Justice Lawerence Marks (Getty, iStock)

Judge rules evictions guidance unconstitutional, moratorium invalid

Judge rules evictions guidance unconstitutional, moratorium invalid
Related chairman Stephen Ross and Related Companies Portfolio CEO Richard O’Toole withBronx Terminal Market and Time Warner Center (Getty, Google Maps, Wikipedia)

Related lays out $200M debt settlement plan for Tel Aviv bondholders

Related lays out $200M debt settlement plan for Tel Aviv bondholders
Inside a $1.8B new development odyssey

Inside a $1.8B new development odyssey

Inside a $1.8B new development odyssey
The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.07 percent for the week ending July 2 (iStock)

Mortgage rates hit all-time low

Mortgage rates hit all-time low
City Council members Debi (Deborah) Rose (right) and Brad Lander (Getty, iStock)

Council bill to reopen day care centers would be boost for landlords

Council bill to reopen day care centers would be boost for landlords
Governor Andrew Cuomo (Getty)

Desperate to open, gyms plan class action against Cuomo

Desperate to open, gyms plan class action against Cuomo
arrow_forward_ios

The Deal's newsletters give you the latest scoops, fresh headlines, marketing data, and things to know within the industry.

Loading...