Lawmakers are poised to extend commercial and residential eviction protections until the end of August, despite opposition from landlords.
The Senate Committee on Housing, Construction and Community Development is slated to vote Tuesday on a measure that would prevent evictions and foreclosures for residential tenants and small landlords, as well as small businesses, who fill out hardship declaration forms. The newly proposed bill extends two separate laws — the Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020, and the COVID-19 Emergency Protect Our Small Businesses Act of 2021 — that were set to expire May 1.
The extender bill is expected to go to a full vote in the Senate and Assembly later this week.
The move comes a week after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the fiscal year 2022 budget bills, which included $2.4 billion in rent relief. That program will be administered by the state’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, which has not yet released applications for tenants and landlords to participate.
“We are moving expeditiously to get assistance to New Yorkers who need it most with the expectation that applications will open in May, as we have stated repeatedly,” OTDA spokesperson Anthony Farmer said in a statement.
Tenant advocates have called for the extension of the state’s existing eviction protections given the delay in the launch of the federal program. Sen. Brian Kavanagh, who chairs the Senate’s housing committee, said the public health risk posed by evictions was the impetus for the extension. He pointed to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s finding that evictions “substantially contribute to Covid-19 transmission,” and that the federal agency still classifies much of New York as having high levels of community transmission.
But Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, said that there is “no legal, health or rational reason for extending this law until August 31.”
“Extending this moratorium an additional four months with no scientific evidence or rationale will only add four additional months of debt to struggling renters and property owners,” he said in a statement.
Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, also said there is “no rational or practical reason” for the extension. In a statement, he said lawmakers should be focused on distributing billions of dollars’ worth of federal rent relief “into the hands of desperate New York renters and building owners as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
“I understand the frustration,” Kavanagh said of landlords’ reaction, but argued “the alternative of not taking the public health situation seriously would be much worse.”
Kavanagh said lawmakers could end up revisiting the issue once the rent relief program launches. In a statement in support of the measure, the Legal Aid Society noted that the state must be prepared to extend eviction protections further if Covid-19 still poses health and safety risks in August.
Under the laws set to be extended, businesses with 50 or fewer employees can avoid evictions by filing a declaration of financial hardship, while owners of 10 or fewer commercial units can do the same to stave off foreclosure. Residential tenants are shielded from holdover and nonpayment evictions if they file a financial hardship declaration with their landlord.
The measure also bars tax lien sales until August 31. In January, the City Council renewed its lien sale for one year but exempted certain property owners. At the time, the state moratorium on the sale was still in place.