City Council expands access to rental aid ahead of eviction ban expiration

Reformed One Shot Deal would provide funds before tenants reach housing court

Council Expands Rent Aid Access As Eviction Ban Set To End (iStock)
Council Expands Rent Aid Access As Eviction Ban Set To End (iStock)

In its last session of the year, the City Council passed a bill that would expand access to emergency grants for tenants who have fallen behind on rent — just as evictions are set to resume.

The city’s One Shot Deal program previously operated as a stop-gap for tenants sued in housing court. Renters could tap the fund — which distributes about $150 million annually — to cover arrears and stave off eviction.

But many renters discovered they could only access the program after their case had been heard in court, according to landlord group Community Housing Improvement Program. That timeline saw tenants and landlords expend time and money for a debt to be made whole.

The Council’s latest legislation cuts through that red tape.

The city’s Human Resources Association website will be updated next year to inform tenants that they can apply for a grant before a housing court date by calling the agency. HRA will then conduct interviews for the program via phone.

The legislation also mandates that HRA tell tenants whether they’ll have to pay back their One Shot Deal. The program’s awards are usually loans, according to Casey Berkovitz, a senior associate at progressive think tank The Century Foundation. Repayment is waived on occasion.

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The legislation — barring a veto by outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio or mayor-elect Eric Adams — will take effect Jan. 15, the same day the state’s eviction moratorium is set to expire.

Tenants who applied for state rental aid before the portal shuttered last month are shielded from eviction for the next year. But CHIP estimates 162,000 renters in the state have yet to apply, leaving them vulnerable to displacement.

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The city previously required tenants to apply for ERAP before trying for a One Shot Deal. Once the state relief portal closed, the city revoked that stipulation, opening eligibility to all renters in need. Tenants who did apply for ERAP must include documented proof within their One Shot Deal application.

CHIP applauded the legislation for increasing access to funding without dragging the courts into things. Within the nearly two-year eviction ban, suits have piled into a logjam.

Since April 2020 — the first full month of the eviction ban — owners have filed over 117,000 cases, according to data from the state court system. That’s less than half of those filed in a normal year like 2019; but with most cases stayed by pandemic hardship declarations, likely only a sliver of those suits have been heard.

“If the city gets this right, we will significantly reduce the backlog in Housing Court, which will vastly improve the lives of renters and reduce the cost of providing housing,” said CHIP Executive Director Jay Martin.

The revamped program is a useful tool for tenants, but the scant $150 million funding One Shot Deals remains a barrier to access.

By comparison, more than $2 billion in state rent relief covered the arrears of about 160,000 tenants. The dearth of funds has left about 126,000 applications in limbo and an even greater number of tenants, CHIP estimates, have been unable to apply, earning the need a multi-billion dollar price tag.

The Century Foundation, in conjunction with Robin Hood Foundation, called on the incoming mayor in a July policy paper to double One Shot Deal’s funding.

The governor in November also requested another $996 million in rent relief from the U.S. Treasury Department. New York has not yet received additional funding.