Lawmakers near deal on $2B in rent relief

Program could include less state aid than proposed by Senate and Assembly

New York /
Apr.April 05, 2021 06:36 PM
Carl Heastie, Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Andrew Cuomo. (Getty)

Carl Heastie, Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Andrew Cuomo. (Getty)

Lawmakers and the governor have agreed on a framework to distribute more than $2 billion in rent relief.

In addition to federal relief, the agreement, which is part of the state’s delayed budget, includes $100 million in state funds, according to landlord and tenant groups. That is $300 million less than what the Senate and Assembly had proposed. The proposal also leaves out the Senate’s request for a $200 million voucher program for homeless New Yorkers, according to New York Focus.

Otherwise, the language follows that of a measure sponsored by Sen. Brian Kavanagh and Assembly member Steven Cymbrowitz covering rental arrears for up to 15 months. As a condition of accepting aid, landlords are barred from no-cause evictions and from increasing rent for one year.

The program is also optional, meaning landlords could take tenants to court rather than wait on the state relief.

Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, said his organization will encourage its landlord members to accept relief, as long as it is adequate to cover arrears.

“It costs more for a landlord to go through the housing court process,” he said.

The measure falls short of calls by tenant advocates for the cancellation of rent debt and a five-year ban on no-cause evictions and rent increases by landlords who receive the aid.

But its rollout will nevertheless be a test for the state. Both tenant and landlord groups have pilliored the state’s initial rent relief program, under which some $53 million in federal funds has still not been distributed.

The state budget, meanwhile, remains unfinished. An agreement between the two houses and Gov. Andrew Cuomo on how much revenue the state will receive in the fiscal year that began April 1 was a major sticking point during budget talks, with the Assembly and Senate calling for more than $7 billion in tax increases, while the governor proposed $1.5 billion. The final budget reportedly landed on $4.3 billion, largely through personal-income and corporate tax hikes.

Negotiations were also reportedly held up by the governor’s insistence on $1.3 billion in bonding authority for the massive Midtown West project, which encompasses the expansion of Penn Station and 20 million square feet of new commercial development around it. Some lawmakers have pushed back against the proposal, saying it shouldn’t be rushed through the budget process.

It is not yet clear if this will be in the final budget. The legislature hasn’t seemed keen on measures that circumvent city regulations.

The budget doesn’t include a controversial measure supported by the real estate industry that would provide property owners another option for offsetting their buildings’ greenhouse gas emissions. The proposal, included in the governor’s executive budget, was not supported by the Assembly and Senate, and was criticized as an evasion of the city’s Local Law 97. It would have allowed building owners to buy renewable energy credits generated outside the city to get under the city law’s caps.

As of Monday, the budget also appears to exclude a measure that would have cleared the way for conversions of certain hotels and office buildings into housing. The governor’s and Senate’s budget proposals included differing versions of it. In fact, two separate conversion proposals were introduced in the Senate, including one that would allow the state’s housing regulator to purchase vacant hotels and office buildings and convert them into affordable housing.





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