- By Steve Bittenbender | The Center Square contributor/April 4th, 2021
(The Center Square) – New York state lawmakers this week passed a bill to extend a moratorium on evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite Republicans issuing concerns that the measure may do more harm than good.
The votes in the state Senate and Assembly on Monday would take the moratorium, which officially ended Saturday, and push it back to Aug. 31. Under the bill, residents and some businesses experiencing hardships due to the pandemic will not face eviction for another four months.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill Tuesday afternoon.
“Tens of thousands of people across the state are still suffering from the impacts of COVID-19. We cannot allow people to lose their homes or businesses and we can’t have more people become homeless during this pandemic,” Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz, D-Bronx, a co-sponsor of the measure, said in a statement. “The extension of the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures is critical to helping families keep a roof over their heads and get back on their feet, and help our small businesses stay in business.”
However, Republicans said that the bill does not take into consideration the needs of landlords, many of whom have been unable to collect rent on their properties.
In a statement, Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay, R-Pulaski, said extending the moratorium for four more months will lead to a substantial decline in affordable housing opportunities.
“We are past the initial period of economic hardship that warranted the need for this moratorium,” he said. “At this stage, allowing tenants to simply ignore rent for another four months will do more harm than good to every part of the housing sector. Tenants deserve the benefit of the doubt in cases of emergency, but today’s vote only prolongs the pain for housing providers whose interests and experiences have been completely ignored.”
Not all Democrats, though, were on board with the proposal. In the Assembly, the bill passed by an 89-59 margin, with 11 Democrats siding with the GOP.
The Senate vote was much closer to an actual party-line split. Only state Sen. Simcha Felder, D-Brooklyn, joined Republicans in the 42-21 vote.
However, housing advocates have noted that evictions may proceed since technically the moratorium has elapsed.
In Brooklyn on Monday, police arrested a dozen protesters at a Brooklyn court for disrupting eviction procedures, according to a Tweet from Left Voice.
The state budget, which lawmakers passed last month, includes $3 billion in funding to aid renters and homeowners. Included in that was a program designed to help renters with up to 12 months of rent and utility payments. The bill passed Monday would allow individuals who may qualify for the relief to stay in their residences as they await the distribution of funds.
“While we can see the light at the end of the tunnel of the global health crisis of the last year, the economic impacts on our families and small businesses have not diminished,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, said in a statement. “Extending these moratoriums will give people the time they need to recover financially, keep families in their homes, and keep businesses doors open.”