Congress has finally reached a deal on a relief package that includes $25 billion in rental assistance, of which New York would receive $1.3 billion.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that California would receive $2.6 billion, twice as much as New York. Texas would receive $1.9 billion and Florida would receive $1.4 billion, according to the NLIHC estimate. It is up to states to determine how to spend the rental assistance funds, which include aid to state and local governments.
The measure would also extend the Centers for Disease Control’s limits on evictions for one month, until Jan. 31.
Diane Yentel, the director of the housing coalition, said the bill would provide immediate relief for renters, but said the CDC eviction limits are insufficient to keep people from homelessness for the rest of the pandemic. The measure is far narrower in scope than an initial $2.2 trillion package pushed by the House of Representatives in October.
“While $25 billion in emergency rental assistance is clearly not enough to meet the estimated $70 billion in accrued back rent or the ongoing need for rental assistance to keep families stably housed, these resources are essential and desperately needed,” said Yentel.
Bloomberg News recently reported that about 11.4 million renter households owed an average of $6,000 in back rent, citing an analysis from Moody’s.
Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, also praised what he said was “much-needed” rental assistance.
“Unfortunately, for some, it may be too late,” the landlord group’s leader said. “But for many, it may help them survive the next few months because it provides the resources needed to pay their mortgages and real estate taxes, and pay for heating bills and boiler repairs, and other maintenance, during the winter months.”
But the federal package could remove some of the urgency for action from the New York state legislature, sources told The Real Deal as news of the federal relief deal broke.
Lawmakers had been embroiled in negotiations to extend the current statewide limits on evictions or pass an expanded blanket eviction ban. The Biden administration could also extend the nationwide limits on evictions before they expire.
The federal measure would also give states more time to spend money that was allocated in March. By the end of October, New York’s current rent relief program had turned down more than half of renters’ requests for relief, leaving $60 million unspent. Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended the application deadline and slightly expanded the program in order to get the remaining funds out the door.
Real estate groups and renters agree the aid can’t come soon enough. In December, landlords reported the lowest rent collection levels in market-rate apartments since the pandemic began.
The Real Estate Board of New York applauded the federal package, but said that the measure on its own was not sufficient to address the economic crisis in New York. The trade association also called for aid to make up for lost tax revenue.
“More rental assistance is needed to protect residential and commercial tenants and property owners who will still struggle to pay their rent or mortgage over the months to come,” said James Whelan, president of REBNY, in a statement.
The Community Housing Improvement Program, which represents New York City landlords, also called the relief package a step in the right direction.
“While this won’t solve the whole problem, it will help tens of thousands of families,” said Jay Martin, executive director of CHIP. “We need our congressional delegation to keep fighting for more relief, and we need our state leaders to make sure this money flows quickly to vulnerable renters.”