Looking to avoid a surge in eviction-related filings, New York City on Tuesday unveiled a mediation program for landlords and tenants aimed at addressing rent-related issues affecting the hardest-hit communities.
At a press conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the Landlord-Tenant Mediation Project would serve hundreds of residents a month, providing housing security to tenants across the city.
“This project will ensure that New Yorkers aren’t forced from their home during this unprecedented health and economic crisis,” the mayor said.
Nonprofit Community Dispute Resolution Centers will assist tenants and small landlords to find solutions to “rental issues” brought on by Covid-19, according to the city. The goal, it said, is to resolve cases before they reach the courts. That would avoid the long-term effects of an eviction proceeding, which the city said can lead to displacement for vulnerable tenants and limit future housing options. Priority will be given to the 27 neighborhoods the city has identified as the hardest hit by the coronavirus, as well as to tenants and small landlords who do not have legal representation.
Noting that 2 million New Yorkers have filed for unemployment as a result of the pandemic, city Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Louise Carroll said “stable housing, good housing is crucial.”
A pause on most eviction filings expired earlier this month, and now landlord attorneys can file evictions with fewer restrictions. While landlords can file most evictions, a judge has said that his previous memo, which paused proceedings until further notice, still stands.
Consequently, there has not been a flood of eviction filings. Last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended eviction protections by allowing tenants to use Covid-related financial hardship as a defense in eviction proceedings.
Meanwhile landlords across the country, weighed down by their own mortgage obligations, have filed lawsuits to overturn local eviction bans. But a lawsuit filed by three landlords in New York that challenged the constitutionality of the governor’s eviction freeze was dismissed late last month.
Contact Sasha Jones at [email protected]