With tens of thousands of New Yorkers out of work because of coronavirus, tenants are trying to figure out how to pay backdated rent they from April.
With the legislature going into session next week, housing advocates are hopeful the legislature will take action to help those in need.
“Everybody recognizes and understands there is a housing crisis and what we have done so far is nothing or next to nothing,” said Cea Weaver, of Housing Justice for All. “The coming eviction crisis that is terrifying New Yorkers is creating urgency in the legislature just like it is creating urgency amongst the general public.”
Supporters point to three bills they’d like to see taken up by the legislature that would eliminate backdated rent, extend an eviction moratorium and provide relief for the recently homeless. But insiders said it’s unlikely any of those bills will pass.
“Next week will be akin to what would normally have been the end of the legislative session,” State Senator Michael Gianaris, a Democrat representing Queens. “We didn’t have that this year as part of the normal calendar because everything got out on hold because the quarantine. So I think you are going to see scores of bills get taken up that would have been taken up in June.”
Many of those bills are local in nature and aren’t expected to have much statewide impact.
Critics say part of the issue is that the legislature has granted Cuomo emergency powers to govern through executive order, without much legislative input. Some have argued those powers should now be curtailed.
“Well, I think there needs to be more certainty in terms of how long it is going to continue and what its contours should be,” said Susan Lerner, a member of Common Cause NY. “Right now, the pandemic seems to be somewhat under control [in New York].”
Cuomo countered by saying that the legislature has the power to overturn his executive orders.
“The legislature can revoke any of them,” Cuomo said in a recent radio interview. “They just were in session and passed bills a couple of weeks ago. They didn’t rescind anything.”
In May, the legislature convened and approved rent relief that was mostly federal money approved months earlier by Congress.
Cuomo has extended a moratorium on all evictions through August. And some believe they should wait to see if congress provides more relief before the legislature takes further action on housing.