Queens lawmaker calls for tenant, landlord relief in state budget

With the rent due for the 11th month during the COVID-19 pandemic, state Senator Michael Gianaris called for a relief program to avert an eviction crisis. (Photo via Getty Images)

As rent came due for millions across New York, state Senator Michael Gianaris urged Governor Andrew Cuomo to include $2.2 billion in relief assistance in this year’s budget. His proposal would supply funding for eligible landlords in exchange for rent forgiveness for tenants who have not been able to pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“New York has spent the last year in the midst of a public health and economic crisis,” Gianaris said. “If we don’t take action now, we will also fall into a housing and eviction crisis. Whether funds come from the federal government or new sources of state revenue, we must include rent relief in this year’s state budget because tenants deserve peace of mind and small landlords should be made whole.”

Gianaris added that funding for the relief program could be funded from increased taxes on wealthy New Yorkers. According to research released by the Federal Reserve, a third of tenants are not confident they can make their next rent payment and a more serious effort is needed to avoid a full-fledged housing catastrophe.

“Rent is due for the 11th time during the COVID-19 pandemic. And for the 11th month in a row, there is no aid for the tenants and struggling landlords who cannot make ends meet,” Housing Justice for All Campaign Coordinator Cea Weaver said. “Recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic will require a deep investment in housing. We need to not only clear the back rent with a $2.2 billion relief fund, but we need to invest millions in ending homelessness this year.”

If federal funds are not provided before the passage of the state budget, Gianaris called on Cuomo to raise taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers to enact the program.

“New York more than any other state witnessed the infamous K-shaped recovery, with those in our state who were already doing well prospering and those on the edges of experiencing the bottom collapsing under them,” Gianaris wrote in a letter to Cuomo. “When those who fare well support those in greatest need, we will move through this difficult time with greater speed and unity.”

The governor’s budget office released a statement citing the billions of dollars that have been committed for housing relief.

“This administration has supported or tenants even before the pandemic with a $20 billion affordable housing plan, and is advancing a $1.3 billion rent relief program that will further bolster rent protections the governor has implemented since the start of the pandemic, including eviction moratoriums,” Division of Budget spokesman Freeman Klopett said. “New York already sends $23 billion more to the federal government than it gets back in return, and we should all be keeping our attention on getting New York its fair share of funding from Washington rather than pushing policies that will undermine our competitiveness and ability to recover.”

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