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New York's Rent Relief Program Falls Short for Struggling Tenants

Between two rounds of funding, the city of New York has only awarded $7 million of a total $60 million intended for tenant relief.
March 30, 2021, 7am PDT | Diana Ionescu | @aworkoffiction
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"Nearly eight weeks after the February 1st deadline, New York has paid out just $7 million out of $60 million available for struggling tenants," writes Katherine Fung in Gothamist. This is according to figures from State Assemblymember Zohran Kwame Mamdani. The state estimates that "between 800,000 to 1.2 million households in New York collectively owe more than $2 billion in rent," yet between its two rounds, the state's rent relief program "awarded $47 million in subsidies to 16,000 households, or roughly 16% of the total applications received since September." 

Many applicants were disqualified because they received federal and state unemployment benefits during part of 2020—payments which expired last July. "At the point at which people really needed help with rent, the program closed its doors," Legal Aid Society attorney Ellen Davidson told Fung.

State Senator Brian Kavanagh, chair of the chamber’s Housing Committee, and other lawmakers "have since proposed a new program that would help tenants pay up to 12 months of rental arrears and utility bills." Kavanagh says the proposal is "ambitious enough and is generous enough that we really think we can pay virtually all of the rent arrears that have built up in the entire state."

Community organizers like Cea Weaver with Housing Justice for All caution that "while funding for the new program appears sufficient, its effectiveness will also depend on whether the state simplifies the application process and conducts adequate outreach to tenants, especially in non-English speaking communities."

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Published on Tuesday, March 23, 2021 in Gothamist
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