NY gets more federal rent aid — but only 6% of need

Washington reallocates $100M to New York

Another round of funding is set to replenish New York’s depleted pool of rent relief. But once again, it won’t come close to covering the state’s estimated need.

The U.S. Treasury Department will send $99.4 million more to help cover New York renters’ pandemic arrears. Landlords have been unable to evict tenants with pending applications yet unable to collect aid since the fund was exhausted months ago.

As of Sept. 22, the state had dished out $2.5 billion to fulfill 197,363 applications, an average award of $12,667, according to the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, which oversees the rent relief program.

But 135,634 applicants still await relief. At the same average payout, it would take $1.7 billion to fulfill those requests. The latest round of federal money represents just under 6 percent of that.

Tenant attorneys acknowledged the discrepancy, but said the $100 million would undoubtedly help.

“However, the need from tenants statewide is still great, and we call on the Biden administration to allocate monies unused by other states to replenish ERAP,” the Legal Aid Society’s Judith Goldliner said, referring to the aid program’s acronym.

The latest federal infusion marks the third time New York has received relief dollars unspent by other states. But each payout has been a pittance.

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New York got $27 million in December and $119 million in March after Gov. Kathy Hochul requested $1.6 billion.

The governor also committed about $800 million to the Emergency Rental Assistance Program in the state budget. But as of July, that money had yet to hit the portal.

At the time, a spokesperson for OTDA said the funds would be used to pay some approved applications in the coming weeks. The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether any of that funding had been made available.

Unallocated federal rent relief dollars are split into two tranches. The most recent payout to New York state should empty the first tranche. States have two chances to draw down leftover funds in the second.

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As of last week, states had spent just over half of the $21.6 billion available in the second tranche, data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows.

It’s unclear, however, how much of that unspent chunk might go to New York and when the state will receive it. Meanwhile, the number of relief applicants continues to grow.

Late last year, Gov. Kathy Hochul shuttered the portal, claiming the state had run through virtually all of the $2.4 billion in funding it had initially received. The Legal Aid Society sued the state, claiming renters needed the eviction protection the portal affords, given New York’s eviction moratorium was set to expire weeks later.

In January, a judge ordered OTDA to reopen the portal. The decision has allowed over 76,600 more renters to apply.

That growing need comes as landlords who applied for funds when the portal first opened in June 2021 still await relief. And because the program only covers up to 15 months of rent — 12 months of arrears and 3 months of future rent — the longer some owners are forced to wait, the more of that debt they will have to eat.

Landlords frustrated by the situation have launched a Change.org petition demanding the state end ERAP.

Others have taken to Twitter to decry the program.

“Tenant hasn’t paid rent ALL year,” wrote Holly Meyer, a mom-and-pop owner in Staatsburg, New York, on Sept. 30.

“Oh and rent due tomorrow and [the state says] she’s entitled to more free rent! Way to go ERAP!”

The eviction protection afforded applicants does not mean they don’t have to pay rent, but some owe far more than they are eligible to receive from the state program. Collecting that balance is a major challenge for landlords. Many do not bother, opting to evict the tenant, eat the loss and move on.

The Hochul administration does have the power to close the program to new applicants. In February, OTDA appealed the decision that had forced the agency to reopen the portal. It was granted a stay that allows it to shutter the portal.

However, it decided to voluntarily comply with the order. In July, a spokesperson for the agency told The Real Deal that it was unable to comment on whether it would stop accepting applications.