Hochul, legislature call emergency session on evictions

Lawmakers to work through weekend with ban about to expire

Gov. Kathy Hochul (Getty, iStock)
Gov. Kathy Hochul (Getty, iStock)

When the Supreme Court voided President Biden’s federal eviction moratorium Thursday, Gov. Kathy Hochul kicked New York’s tenant protection efforts into overdrive.

The governor said in a statement Friday that she plans to hold a special session, effectively pulling the Legislature out of recess, to address evictions. The state’s own moratorium expires Tuesday.

It was not immediately clear if she intends to act on legislation introduced earlier this month by Sen. Alessandra Biaggi and Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou to extend the moratorium until Oct. 31, or to tweak the rent relief program’s enabling legislation to speed delivery of the money.

In her statement, however, Hochul emphasized getting rental assistance out the door.

“Our teams will be working through the weekend to address how best to deliver relief to renters and homeowners in need as quickly as possible,” Hochul said in her statement.

In a tweet Friday afternoon, Hochul urged renters to apply for the state’s emergency rental assistance program, which provides a year of protection against eviction.

The defense ERAP affords, however, is not immediate. For a tenant to be shielded, documents showing proof of income, occupancy, identity and rental obligations must be reviewed and accepted, said Barbara Guinn, executive deputy commissioner of the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, at a hearing last week.

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Protections also require OTDA to work with housing courts to provide up-to-date information on who has applied to the program. The agency has not earned a reputation for speed or transparency and has been called to two hearings this month to answer for the delays plaguing the rent relief rollout.

In one, OTDA Commissioner Michael Hein said the agency had finalized its data-sharing agreements with the court system, which he said would gain access in real-time to “applications pending, processing, that sort of thing.”

Hochul said $800 million has been obligated to rent relief. Only a small portion has actually reached landlords, though. As of last week, $156 million in relief had dropped via direct deposit or check. Landlords say issues with the agency’s web portal have prevented them from collecting payments.

In her inaugural address this week, Hochul pledged to speed the delivery of rent relief by adding staff to process applications and assigning a team to identify problems with the portal.

A leading landlord group, the Rent Stabilization Association, urged the governor to focus on releasing relief funds rather than issuing another moratorium, which would only add to tenants’ arrears and further strain property owners struggling to pay property taxes and mortgages.

“Circumventing the U.S. Supreme Court decision, instead of getting the hundreds of millions of dollars in federal rent out the door, would just be more of the same political gamesmanship, rather than a real solution to righting OTDA’s failures and delays in distributing the monies,” said RSA President Joseph Strasburg.