Hochul’s first big victory is a new moratorium on evictions

Photo: Erik McGregor / LightRocket via Getty Images

In two rulings released last month, the U.S. Supreme Court virtually overturned New York state’s moratorium on evictions and overturned the CDC’s ban. Despite the surge in COVID-19 cases across the country and the end of unemployment benefits in a few days, the real nightmare for the six Tory judges was one in which the CDC could “order free delivery of groceries to the homes of sick or vulnerable ”or“ require manufacturers to provide free computers to allow people to work from home, ”as they wrote in their decision. Across the political spectrum, Governor Kathy Hochul called for a general moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, adopted Wednesday, that will keep New Yorkers at home until January 15. of their own income, are unable to pay and risk being deported, ”she said at a press conference on Tuesday. The move is yet another that distances Hochul from his predecessor, who last year dribbled the moratorium extensions piecemeal.

The new moratorium, an updated version of the state’s previous break on evictions, was passed by the Legislature in a rare extraordinary session called by Hochul. A key change to the law creates a way for landlords to challenge a tenant’s financial hardship claim in court. A judge can now rule on a tenant’s eligibility, weighing factors such as lost income or increased expenses. If the judge sides with the owner, the eviction file can move forward; otherwise, it is postponed to January. The change specifically addresses the Supreme Court’s objection to New York’s earlier moratorium lacking a mechanism for landlords to challenge their tenants’ claims. “Basically, we are giving people their day in court,” State Senator Brian Kavanagh, chairman of the Senate Housing Committee, said Wednesday during debate on the bill. And to ensure tenants invited to return to court have lawyers, the legislature also approved a new $ 25 million legal services fund for those facing eviction in a separate bill.

Importantly, the extended moratorium gives the state another chance to finally distribute the more than $ 2 billion in rent relief that has mostly stagnated for months. As of August 23, the program had distributed only $ 203 million to homeowners, or only 7% of available funds. The state has approved another $ 605 million in relief, but has yet to release that money. The new moratorium also allows residents of the seven counties who have chosen to launch their own versions of rent relief to go to the state if their local program is running out of money. Lawmakers gave aid a boost on Wednesday by adding an additional $ 250,000 for these specific tenants. Once Hochul signs the bill, the extended moratorium will take effect.

To Hochul’s credit, she made it clear from the start that accelerating rent relief and preventing evictions was a top priority. On the first day of taking office, she ordered the state to spend an additional $ 1 million on marketing and outreach to publicize the rent relief program (only 176,000 households applied for the most over 800,000 New York tenants in arrears), and a week later, Hochul said she would ask state officials to take a “SWAT team approach” of going door-to-door. -gate, “as those involved in the census”, to inform residents of the program.

Cea Weaver, a tenant activist with Housing Justice for All, called the new moratorium a big win for New York tenants. “This is the best scenario for tenants. This will prevent people from losing their homes. This will protect the health of people from the Delta variant, ”she said. But the urgency with which the legislature acted left lawmakers little time to take a close look at the new legislation. “I’m really concerned about the lack of transparency, the ability to really dig into this bill and understand the details of it,” said State Senator Pamela Helming, who represents the northern counties of the state, including Cayuga, Monroe and Ontario. She did not receive a bill until Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, homeowner groups are ready to challenge the state’s new moratorium and are particularly emboldened after their two victories in the Supreme Court. Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, which was among the groups that won the court’s recent decision against the eviction moratorium, and a group of homeowners are already considering retaliation. “Make no mistake, we will challenge any attempt by lawmakers to legislate a moratorium on evictions,” Strasburg said.

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