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Erosion of assistance, eviction freeze, leave renters in uncertain territory

Mike Desmond
WBFO News File Photo

Thursday marks the deadline for the state’s rent relief program for people impacted by COVID-19, and questions remain about what eviction may mean for households and families dealing with heavy rent burdens.

The COVID Rent Relief Program provides a one-time subsidy for households spending at least 30-percent of their monthly income on rent. The subsidy covers the difference between a household’s rent burden on March 1st of this year and the burden for the months which they applied for. It coincides with the end of New York’s eviction moratorium on August 20th. After that, landlords can begin the eviction process on delinquent renters.

Homeless Alliance of Western New York Executive Director Dale Zuchlewski said this may paint a grim picture for housing in the coming months.

“That eviction process will start and people are going to start scrambling for housing assistance,” he said.

Zuchlewski noted that eviction doesn’t necessarily mean homelessness. Locally, only 7-percent of people become homeless after evictions.

The larger problem Zuchlewski says, is the flood of people who will be looking for housing beyond August 20th.

“The problem is going to be that it’s going to create housing instability,” he said. “Where you can have a lot of people possibly looking for apartments at the same time. If you’ve had an eviction, it’s even more difficult to find an apartment. There’s just a severe lack of affordable housing, and especially for families.”

Without a comprehensive solution, Zuchlewski says the best options for low-income families] will be Section 8 vouchers and public housing, where waiting lists remain incredibly long.