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State reopens COVID rent relief program

New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas today announced the COVID Rent Relief Program will be reopened for application with expanded eligibility criteria in an effort to serve New Yorkers who may have not had the opportunity to initially apply and those who may have been previously ineligible.

 HCR will accept applications from households starting at 9 a.m. on Friday, December 18 through Monday, February 1, 2021.

“HCR is acutely aware that this pandemic has put more pressure on New Yorkers who were already housing insecure, and these improvements to the Legislature’s original program will expand access to rent relief while building on Governor Cuomo’s eviction protections,” Commissioner Visnauskas said.

“We worked around the clock for months to ensure rent-burdened households received the assistance for which they qualified. But more can be done. Governor Cuomo has taken repeated action to protect residents from eviction and foreclosure, and as a long-time housing advocate, he understands that our efforts must be unending. Tenants need our support in order to offset the long-term implications of this public health and economic crisis.”

Modifications to the law will ensure the additional $60 million in funds can be distributed to low-income tenants who have suffered hardship due to the COVID-19 emergency.

New York’s landlords have hailed the move as a win for all New Yorkers.

“There is a lot more work to do, but the hard work of state officials has provided a much needed bailout for renters so they can rest comfortably at home for the holidays,” said Jay Martin, executive director of Community Housing Improvement Program, a group that represents thousands of owners of rent regulated properties.

JAY MARTIN

However, he added, “Gov. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature cannot solve this problem alone. It is long past time for Congress to step up and provide relief on the scale necessary to stabilize housing for hundreds of thousands of at-risk New Yorkers.”

CHIP is hopeful that the New York Congressional Delegation will be able to secure additional relief soon. The groups says Federal funding for renters will stabilize affordable housing in New York City, allowing many housing providers to pay their property taxes on time, which is necessary to fund the city’s social safety net.

Under the new program, COVID Rent Relief eligibility has been changed to no longer require households to have been considered “rent burdened” prior to the pandemic in order to qualify. Rent burden is defined as paying more than 30 percent of monthly gross income towards rent.

Residents that previously applied for COVID Rent Relief will not have to reapply to be reconsidered. HCR will re-evaluate all applications that were denied according to the new criteria and issue revised determination letters to applicants.

To qualify for this one-time subsidy, low-income renters impacted by the pandemic must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Must be a renter and have a primary residence in New York State;
  • Applicants must have lost income during the period of April 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020;
  • Before March 7, 2020, household income must have been at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income, adjusted for household size; and
  • Households must be “rent burdened” during the months they are applying for assistance between April 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020. 

For the purposes of assessing applicant income, cash benefits and unemployment benefits are both included in the calculation.

The subsidy for eligible applicants will be calculated as: the difference between the household’s rent burden on March 1, 2020 and the household’s rent burden during the months of April, May, June and July of 2020. For applicants who were not considered rent burdened on March 1, 2020, the subsidy will be calculated to bring them to the 30 percent rent burden threshold.

Applications are available on the COVID Rent Relief Program portal on HCR’s website here: https://hcr.ny.gov/rrp

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