New York Eviction Ban Ends, but Tenants Find Ways to Stay in Homes

Since New York state’s ban on most evictions ended this month the pace of evictions has been slow, as tenant attorneys work to delay cases in court and the governor requested more federal aid for rental assistance.

Tens of thousands of tenants are at risk of having to leave their homes because of unpaid rent since New York’s 22-month ban expired two weeks ago. The federal eviction moratorium ended last year.

New York City landlords entered 231 eviction filings in the week after the state moratorium expired, according to court records analyzed by the Eviction Lab, a research group at Princeton University. That was about one-tenth the number of eviction filings during the week before the moratorium began in March of 2020.

Some pandemic safeguards and local laws have delayed evictions for many of the state’s delinquent tenants, as they have in a number of cities across the country. Tenant attorneys across the state are also filing a flurry of new court motions to try to fend off evictions or to buy tenants more time.

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Those procedures and protections can only temporarily delay the eviction process. Many renters owe five-figure sums. Some New York lawmakers and housing advocates say that unless tenants get access to additional rental assistance funds, a wave of evictions looks inevitable.

Statewide, there are nearly 230,000 active eviction cases that can begin to proceed, according to tracking by the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition, after being effectively blocked by eviction bans for nearly two years because of the pandemic.

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday requested an additional $ 1.6 billion from the Treasury Department to pay rent for these tenants.

A Treasury spokeswoman said there was limited funding left in the federal program for states, and that Treasury is encouraging local governments to use other federal funds to shore up their assistance programs.

New York, which has one of the country’s largest renter populations, is one of the last states to end its local eviction moratorium. The last remaining state with a local eviction ban is in New Mexico, and state officials plan to start phasing it out next month.

New York received more than $ 2 billion of federal rental assistance to keep tenants from falling behind on rent payments. The state was slow to start the assistance program last year, after lawmakers took months to decide how it would operate. But by November, the state spent all this aid, leaving 174,000 tenants who applied without any funding, according to state figures.

State officials have said New York could use some of its $ 2 billion in pandemic recovery reserves for housing. But it would likely be months before that money would become available, since the funds are tied to the state’s annual budget process.

Tenants can still apply for assistance funds, and they can use the application as a defense in court against eviction. As of Thursday, 8,700 New Yorkers have applied for rental assistance since the end of the moratorium, according to New York’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

Jay Martin, executive director for the Community Housing Improvement Program, a landlord trade group, said many New York City evictions were already a two-month process or longer before the pandemic and will now likely take even more time. He favors more federal or state assistance.

“At least in New York City, we know they’re not going to be evicted in the immediate future. So let’s work to solve the problem, which is the debt accumulation, ”he said.

Jooyeon Lee, director of the housing unit at Brooklyn Legal Services, is among the attorneys trying to keep tenants in their homes. To prevent the eviction of Michelle Bernard, a 52-year-old home health aide who said she is behind on her rent because of work lost during the pandemic, Ms. Lee is filing a new rental assistance application with the state on her client’s behalf.

Once that application is in, Ms. Bernard will be protected from eviction, but obtaining money is a process that could take weeks or months. If her debts are eventually covered, she would then be in the clear, as long as she does not fall behind payments again in the future.

Write to Will Parker at will.parker@wsj.com

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