Housing Advocates Pushing to Cancel Rent

Housing advocates say the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare a long-standing crisis in housing affordability. Photo credit: Suzanne/Adobe Stock.

NEW YORK – Housing justice advocates fear that without action from Albany, New Yorkers who have lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic could be at risk of losing their homes.

Businesses may be shuttered and streets practically deserted during the shutdown, but the bills keep coming in and thousands of people may no longer be able to pay their rent.

Even before the pandemic, many tenants were just one paycheck away from eviction.

In March, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a 90-day moratorium on evictions, but Cea Weaver, campaign coordinator for the Housing Justice for All alliance, says more needs to be done.

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“We’re asking the State Legislature and the governor to pass legislation that would suspend landlords’ ability to collect rent for the duration of the crisis,” she states.

Legislation has been introduced in the State Assembly and Senate to suspend certain residential and small-business rents and landlord mortgage payments for three months.

Affordable housing has been a major issue for decades and landlords wield a lot of power in Albany. Weaver insists that once the pandemic has subsided, the state cannot and should not return to business as usual.

“Our goal is to rehouse 92,000 homeless New Yorkers and to make sure that everybody is living in homes that are safe and that they can afford,” she states.

Weaver says there are many things the state could do, including freezing all rents for two years and enacting legislation to keep landlords from warehousing vacant apartments.

Weaver points out that the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is going to land squarely on low and middle-income New Yorkers so state lawmakers need to act now.

“Whether we act or not, millions of New Yorkers cannot pay their rent and they have a critical role to play in stabilizing the situation and passing this sensible policy that can both support small landlords and support renters,” she states.

Weaver adds that without legislative action, New Yorkers and other renters across the country may have no other option but to stage a nationwide rent strike.

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