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New York let its eviction and foreclosure moratorium expire on Saturday, and the Housing Court reportedly has at least 291,000 pending cases that it will start hearing on Tuesday.
New York instituted the eviction moratorium in March 2020 by then-governor Andrew Cuomo and has been regularly extended since, but current Gov. Kathy Hochul has declined to do.
The critical economic support program was put in place at the start of the pandemic. Its ending sets the stage for a possible rush by landlords to try to oust low-income renters.
State and city officials expressed concern earlier this week about the impact of ending the moratorium, estimating that 500,000 New Yorkers needed housing aid at a time when the fast-spreading Omicron variant continued to upend social and economic life.
Protesters took to the streets of the Big Apple on Friday demanding the extension of a moratorium on rental evictions.
‘It’s unacceptable to start eviction proceedings against 250,000 people in the state of New York, when it’s winter. And there’s a pandemic still going on. It’s just unacceptable,’ said protest organizer Sarah Lazuy.
People take part in a protest against the ending of the eviction moratorium which is due to end
Protesters hold signs during a protest against the expiration of an eviction moratorium
‘You cannot allow a moratorium to lapse in the middle of winter, during a COVID surge,’ said Jumaane Williams, a former Brooklyn council member and himself a candidate for the post of governor.
When it was first instituted, New York was the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis in the United States. Extensions occurred even as a federal eviction ban and moratoriums in other states lapsed.
The city of nine million has suffered at least 34,000 deaths during the pandemic.
As in previous days, demonstrators waved banners and chanted slogans in front of the New York Public Library.
‘Housing is a human right’ read one banner, while another brandished a picture of Hochul with the words, ‘Governor of evictions.’
‘It’s going to be profound in New York,’ said Ellen Davidson, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society. ‘We expect to see case filings explode and housing courts struggling to operate the way they did, pre-COVID.’
‘Tens of thousands of women and children of color in New York City are going to get evicted by their landlords, are going to wind up on the streets are going to wind up in our shelter system. And that just is not possibly right,’ said New York City comptroller Brad Lander.
While many landlords may move immediately to evict tenants, Governor Hochul said that renters could effectively avoid eviction by applying for a rental relief program, even though the program has been depleted.
Rental and property prices in Manhattan and Brooklyn in particular are astronomical, one of the downsides of daily life in the economic and cultural capital of the United States.
New mayor Eric Adams has made the fight against New York’s enormous socio-economic inequalities one of his priorities.
Mayor Eric Adams speaks during the press conference on expiration of eviction moratorium. Mayor Adams joined other politician to call on federal treasure to release more moneys to help tenants and landlords, pictured on Thursday
People sit in the street to protest after gathering in Manhattan’s Bryant Park
On Thursday, Adams joined Hochul in calling on the federal government to provide an infusion of funds for the program, arguing that the United States’ most populous city has not received its fair share of federal rent relief.
Adams also launched a campaign to inform tenants of their rights. In a recorded video message the mayor stressed that it was illegal for landlords to lock tenants out of their homes and that all New Yorkers could obtain legal assistance for free.
Landlords have submitted 81,530 eviction filings in New York City since March 15, 2020, according to Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, which has compiled data on 31 cities.
It was unclear how many of those cases would now move forward and how many new cases would emerge.
Davidson said New York was particularly vulnerable compared to other states because it has a relatively high percentage of renters, many of whom are in low-income households.
She said the state had been ‘shortchanged’ by the federal relief program, which was based on population rather than percentage of renters.