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New York’s eviction ban ends, but tenants find ways to stay in homes

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Since New York State’s ban on most evictions ended this month, the pace of evictions has been slow as tenants’ attorneys struggle to hold up court cases and the governor has asked for more federal assistance for housing assistance.

Tens of thousands of tenants are at risk of having to vacate their homes due to unpaid rent since New York’s 22-month ban expired two weeks ago. The federal eviction moratorium ended last year.

New York City landlords filed 231 eviction cases in the week after the state’s moratorium expired, according to court records analyzed by the Eviction Lab, a research group from the United States. Princeton University. This was around a tenth of the number of eviction requests in the week before the moratorium began in March 2020.

Certain pandemic safeguards and local laws have delayed evictions for many of the state’s delinquent tenants, as they have in a number of cities across the country. Tenants’ attorneys across the state are also filing a series of new lawsuits in an attempt to stave off evictions or buy tenants more time.

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These procedures and protections can only temporarily delay the eviction process. Many tenants owe five-figure sums. Some New York lawmakers and housing advocates say that unless tenants have access to additional housing assistance funds, a wave of evictions seems inevitable.

Statewide, there are nearly 230,000 active eviction cases that may begin to proceed, according to Right to Counsel NYC Coalition tracking, after being effectively stalled by eviction bans for nearly two years due to the pandemic.

Governor Kathy Hochul on Thursday requested an additional $1.6 billion from the Treasury Department to pay rent for those tenants.

A Treasury spokeswoman said there remains limited funding in the federal program for states and that the Treasury is encouraging local governments to use other federal funds to bolster their assistance programs.

New York, which has one of the largest renter populations in the country, is one of the latest states to end its moratorium on local evictions. The last remaining state with a local eviction ban is in New Mexico, and state officials plan to begin phasing it out next month.

New York has received more than $2 billion in federal rent assistance to keep tenants from falling behind on rent payments. The state was slow to launch the assistance program last year, after lawmakers took months to decide how it would work. But in November, the state spent all that aid, leaving 174,000 tenants who applied without any funding, according to state figures.

State officials have said New York could use some of its $2 billion in pandemic recovery reserves for housing. But it would likely be months before that money became available, as the funds are tied to the state’s annual budget process.

Tenants can still apply for assistance funds, and they can use the application as a defense in court against eviction. As of Thursday, 8,700 New Yorkers have applied for housing assistance since the moratorium ended, according to the New York Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, a trade group of landlords, said many evictions in New York City were already a two-month or longer process before the pandemic and will likely take even longer. He favors more federal or state aid.

“At least in New York, we know they won’t be deported immediately. So let’s work on solving the problem, which is the accumulation of debt,” he said.

Jooyeon Lee, director of Brooklyn Legal Services’ housing unit, is among the lawyers trying to keep tenants in their homes. To prevent the eviction of Michelle Bernard, a 52-year-old home care aide who said she was behind on her rent due to work lost during the pandemic, Ms Lee is reapplying for housing assistance with the State on behalf of his client.

Once this application is made, Ms Bernard will be protected from deportation, but getting the money is a process that could take weeks or months. If her debts are finally covered, then she would be safe, as long as she is not in arrears again in the future.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many Americans to come to terms with new financial realities. The WSJ’s Shelby Holliday traveled to a diverse Philadelphia neighborhood to learn how neighbors are facing different struggles brought on by the same virus. Photo: Adam Falk/The Wall Street Journal

Write to Will Parker at [email protected]

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