De Blasio says he will pursue rent moratorium

Mayor, in radio interview, pledged to look into the idea “immediately”

Mayor Bill de Blasio (Photo by William Farrington-Pool/Getty Images)
Mayor Bill de Blasio (Photo by William Farrington-Pool/Getty Images)

Mayor Bill de Blasio threw his support behind a rent moratorium Friday in light of the coronavirus pandemic and said he will pursue the idea “immediately.”

“We have to figure out how to do some kind of moratorium for both residents and small business,” he said on his weekly call-in show with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer. “I’m going to find out if that’s anything within the power of the city or if that can only be done with state law or state action, but I think it’s the right thing to do.”

“I will pursue the rent moratorium idea immediately,” he continued.

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But de Blasio also gave a rare show of support for landlords as he endorsed the concept, perhaps recognizing that the loss of rent would put their buildings at risk of foreclosure. “We have to obviously make sure when the smoke clears that the folks who own the buildings are going to somehow be whole and able to keep running their buildings,” he said.

A rent moratorium would almost certainly require state legislation, and it remains unclear whether it is something Albany would be willing to pass. Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not mention it in his press conference Friday morning, but he did announce Thursday that he would suspend mortgage payments and foreclosures in New York for a 90-day period amid the outbreak.

A state administrative judge halted evictions earlier in the week, and President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that the Department of Housing and Urban Development is suspending all of its evictions and foreclosures through April.