The ongoing economic disruption facing New York is exacerbating a housing crisis in which millions of New Yorkers were struggling to pay rent each month even before the emergency. The latest round of data from Albany shows that an additional 195,000 New Yorkers filed for unemployment benefits last week – a sure sign that countless families across the state will need continued financial assistance to make ends meet.
Last Friday, Governor Cuomo took the encouraging step to provide additional protections for tenants in New York. The administration will now ban late fees for renters who miss payments, allow tenants to put security deposits toward rent, and extend the statewide eviction ban through August 20. These actions mean that families across the state, no matter their current economic situation, now have an additional layer of housing security for months to come.
The Cuomo administration has shown leadership by enacting these policies, but the scope of the crisis means that New York alone can only do so much. The federal government will need to step up to the plate and deliver families, particularly those served by the affordable housing industry, the relief that they need.
Rent collection is down across the board since the pandemic began, but the issue is particularly acute in the affordable housing community. NYSAFAH members, who collectively manage and maintain hundreds of thousands of affordable homes across New York, saw lower levels of rent collection in April than overall reports show. Residents living in affordable homes are disproportionately struggling, with little evidence they will fare much better in May or even June.
This is a worrying trend because a sustained drop in rent means that property owners will struggle to maintain affordable homes or continue to employ the building service workers who keep buildings clean and safe. Providing residents with the means to continue to make rent will ensure that the worst outcome is avoided and preserve the quality of affordable homes.
Moreover, the economic fallout from the crisis will continue long beyond the pandemic. Families who were already struggling beforehand may be in worse economic shape after months of possible unemployment through no fault of their own. A holistic federal response is needed now to prevent this crisis from getting even worse.
Fortunately, New York’s elected officials are already leading the way. New Yorkers can rest assured that their homes are secure at least through the summer. Property owners, too, have been provided with necessary relief.
But the next step needs to come from the federal government. By granting rental assistance to families in need, Washington can rise to the occasion and protect residents and the housing system that supports them in the first place.