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Cuomo extends eviction moratorium, promises help for landlords

Governor Andrew Cuomo has extended New York’s eviction moratorium through August 20 and promised he is “working on relief” for landlords.

Speaking at a press briefing held at New York Medical College in Westchester this morning (Thursday) the governor lauded New Yorkers for helping produce a “significant drop” in coronavirus hospitalizations by staying home.

However, he conceded that the same stay-at-home order that has cost people their jobs has “many people worried about being able to pay their rent.”

He said, “I hope to give families a deep breath that nothing can happen between now and August and then we’ll figure out what the situation is.”

The eviction moratorium for non-payment of rent as a result of COVID-19 includes residential and commercial tenants. Late fees are also banned, and tenants have the option to use their security deposit to make their rent and repay that “over a prolonged period of time.”

The Governor said, “The number one issue people talk to me about is rent. This takes that issue off the table until August 20 then, whatever happens, we will handle it at the time.”

Acknowledging that landlords still have to pay their bills, Cuomo added, “We are working on relief from the banks for the landlords. Also, there are programs that the federal government is doing and the state is doing to make sure those banks get relief so they don’t have to do any foreclosures – we stopped foreclosures on the landlords. But there is no doubt a trade off between the tenants and the landlords.

“We are helping landlords, but on a human level, I don’t want to see people and their children being evicted at this time through no fault of their own.”

Jay Martin, Executive Director of the Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP), said he respected the Governor’s decision, but added, “It is past time for the federal government to step up and provide renters and building owners with the relief they need. Congress must act quickly to put money in the pockets of renters who lost income and cannot afford to pay rent — either through direct cash or an emergency housing voucher. If they do not millions of New Yorkers will suffer.”

JOE STRASBURG

Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, said aid for tenants must be paired with help for building owners who are facing property tax payments on July 1, and a host of other expenses such as mortgage payments, water bills, and maintenance and repair costs.

“We have urged state and city elected officials to advocate for real rental relief through the federal government in order to ensure that tenants can meet their rents so that building owners, in turn, can continue to pay their mortgages, property taxes and water bills. Real rent relief – not temporary bandaid approaches – is the only sensible way to protect tenants, landlords, the residential housing landscape, the city, neighborhood economies, and jobs and small businesses,” Strasburg said.

The Real Estate Board of New York has also called on the federal government to devise a more permanent solution to the crisis through stimulus funding.

In an op ed last week, REBNY president James Whelan said, “What’s needed is an emergency rental assistance program that would help defend both tenants and property owners against further financial difficulties as the pandemic continues. 

“The federal government can accomplish this by designating additional funding to the Department of Housing and Urban Development existing rental assistance programs, including the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, ESG (Emergency Solutions Grant Program) and CDBG (Community Development Block Grants).”

New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH) president and CEO Jolie Milstein called Cuomo’s action “a reassuring step” but added, “A holistic federal response is needed to help tenants make rent payments on time, help property owners maintain affordable homes, and ensure the development of more affordable housing.”

In March, Gov. Cuomo issued New York Executive Order 202.9 ordering forbearance of loans by New York State regulated banking institutions for individuals and businesses suffering financial hardships stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) implemented a foreclosure and eviction moratorium for single family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages that has now been extended until at least June 30.

Stressing his was a day by day approach, the governor said that deaths from coronavirus in the state have remained flat for three days, with 231 people dying overnight. The total New York death toll now stands at nearly 20,000, he said.

“To me, it’s not a question of whether or not we reopen – you have to reopen, you don’t have a choice,” said Cuomo. “It’s how you reopen and to say we have to have a strong economy or protect public health, no,that’s a false choice. It is not one or the other, it’s both. We have to reopen, get the economy running and we have to protect public health.”

When the state’s PAUSE order expires May 15, he said, “We will look at different regions in the state by the data to see if they are in position to reopen.

“In the interim, everyone is making do.”

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