Governor Made Request for Additional Rent Relief in November
With the statewide eviction moratorium expected to sunset once and for all, New York patiently waited for the federal government to redistribute additional rent funds to the State.
Although we were optimistic that the U.S. Treasury Department would begin the redistribution process of unused nationwide rent relief funds, New York had still not received any new money nearly six weeks after Governor Kathy Hochul requested an additional $990 million. Now, the eviction moratorium is just days away from expiring on January 15, 2022 and there were indications that the Legislature was not expected to renew the moratorium. How the State and Housing Court plan on handling all COVID-related cases following the eventual expiration of the moratorium remained the biggest question going into the new year.
Since the ERAP portal stopped accepting applications in November, various organizations on both sides of the rental housing industry aisle called on Governor Hochul to reopen the portal despite the allocated funds being depleted. RSA took a different approach, calling any attempt to reopen the portal with no funds available irresponsible, especially with no guarantees that the U.S. Treasury Department would reallocate funds and provide New York with additional money. Despite a legal challenge by several tenant advocacy groups on December 13th, the portal remained closed to any new applications.
Furthermore, as of the middle of December, the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) continued to struggle with regard to distributing the remainder of obligated funds that were approved for qualified tenants but were still waiting for verification from their property owners. In total, this amounted to approximately $924 million and 73,884 building owners. Although the number of property owners awaiting payment decreased by approximately 13,000 since the portal closed in November, RSA continued to press OTDA to increase outreach efforts to property owners. This eventually led to a data sharing agreement between RSA and OTDA to help link approved applications with any RSA members whose tenants applied for ERAP (see page 10 of the January 2022 Reporter for more information).
In addition to these efforts, RSA General Counsel Olga Someras, along with other landlord attorneys, sent a letter to Chief Judge Janet DiFiore stressing the importance of a fully-opened and functioning Housing Court. The letter detailed why Housing Court, despite the rhetoric pushed by tenant activists, would serve as the ultimate resource to assist both building owners and tenants who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter is available to view HERE.
Days later, Judge Carolyn Walker-Diallo replied to the letter on behalf of Chief Judge DiFiore. Judge Walker-Diallo, whose response can also be found on RSA’s website, shared RSA’s sentiment about the importance Housing Court ahead of the moratorium’s expiration, but disagreed with several points made by the attorneys in the original letter. Nevertheless, the imminent expiration of the eviction moratorium has put immense pressure on the State to develop a plan moving forward with regard to court cases that involve tenants who are still financially-impacted by the pandemic and for building owners who are owed rental arrears.
Because we did not have any further updates with regard to the moratorium, Housing Court, or additional rent relief funds as we went to press on this issue of the RSA Reporter, it is important to keep an eye out for breaking news updates via email blast. These updates will undoubtedly be critical for our membership, so we will also provide a thorough breakdown of the latest news in the next issue of the Reporter.