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No decision yet on extending NY's eviction moratorium

Three red and white banners, saying "WE DEMAND," "AFFORDABLE" and "HOUSING," hang on a gray parking garage.
Jillian Forstadt
Housing advocates in Binghamton hung a banner on the Water Street parking garage, demanding more affordable housing.

Gov. Kathy Hochul told reporters Friday that she has not yet determined whether the state will extend the soon-to-expire eviction moratorium. Some housing advocates are disappointed the governor failed to address the moratorium in her State of the State agenda.

Hochul’s plan did include a commitment to create and preserve 100,000 affordable homes, including 10,000 units for supportive housing. It builds on promises made by her predecessor, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who promised in 2017 to build 6,000 supportive housing units over a five-year span.

Hochul, however, didn’t announce any plans that would address the rent hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers still owe. The moratorium has allowed them to keep their apartments, given tenants filed a form with their landlord or court naming a COVID-related hardship.

A judge ruled Thursday that the state will have to re-open its emergency rental assistance program, which had stopped accepting most applications in November. Renters with applications pending cannot be evicted.

While Hochul asked the federal government for another $1 billion to replenish the fund, the government allocated just $27.7 million in supplemental funding to New York, as first reported by Law360.

The governor said Friday that she has been speaking with state leaders privately about the moratorium’s fate, but there hasn’t been any public sign of extending it.

WSKG’s Jillian Forstadt discussed Hochul’s plan and the moratorium’s expiration with Shelly Nortz with the Coalition for the Homeless.

Forstadt: I’m Jillian Forstadt, here with Shelly Nortz, Deputy Executive Director of Policy at the Coalition for the Homeless. It’s the nation’s oldest advocacy and direct service group helping those experiencing homelessness in New York. Welcome, Shelly.

Nortz: Thank you. Nice to see you.

Forstadt: I want to start with some audio from the Governor’s address. Here’s Hochul.

Hochul: We need to focus on addressing the root cause of homelessness, unmet mental health needs, poverty, addiction, and housing insecurity.

Forstadt: One way Hochul plans to do this is through adding 10,000 units of supportive housing. That’s housing for low income residents, which also provides them with other resources like mental and other health care, and social services. Shelly, this is something your group has pushed for a long time. Can you explain why?

Nortz: Sure. Supportive Housing is permanent housing with onsite support services that was originally pioneered in New York State. It is designed to help people find housing stability for the long term. And that means people are not expected to move on unless they really have obtained such stability that they’re able to move out into independent housing, but it’s a permanent home for the most disabled homeless people.

Forstadt: Is that enough?

Nortz: No, no governor or mayor has ever brought permanent supportive housing to the scale that we need to address the unmet need. We know that four out of five approved applications for supportive housing in New York City alone are for people whose application cannot be fulfilled, because we don’t have a unit for them yet. And that is a long standing pattern. So even though the amount of housing that’s being built in the various supportive housing programs, has been growing over the decades, it is nowhere near the unmet need yet.

Forstadt: The governor’s agenda doesn’t mention rental assistance. And the eviction moratorium is set to expire on Jan. 15. What does that absence say to you?

Nortz: I was shocked. I was truly appalled that there was no mention of filling that multibillion dollar hole in this State of the State address. It’s the elephant in the room, and I’m very disappointed that Governor Hochul gave a nod to the fact that the eviction moratorium is expiring, and neither said “We’re going to propose to extend it”, nor said “We’ve got the resources to pay for people’s rent arrears and ongoing rental needs”. That’s a major problem.

Forstadt: Why do you think the governor hasn’t signaled another extension of the moratorium?

Nortz: It’s unclear to me. It’s possible that there’s been a behind the scenes negotiation with the legislature about an extension or about negotiating some kind of rental assistance package for arrears and maybe ongoing rental assistance. Maybe there’s some awareness that even though the federal government came through with a paltry $27 million in additional emergency rental assistance funds, there is some impression that the Biden administration is going to do more, and we just haven’t seen it yet.

It’s not clear why, but it really is creating a degree of panic. People have rent arrears that have accrued because they don’t have income to pay their rent. And the moratorium and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program have created the ability for them to keep their apartments, even though they haven’t been able to pay their rent, and that’s about to end without executive action.