Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday urged the state to act on a number of rent relief proposals amid the coronavirus pandemic, including a deferment of rents for tenants, the use of pre-paid security deposits in lieu of rent, and an extension of the current moratorium on evictions. The mayor has also called on the Rent Guidelines Board–the entity that determines yearly rent increases for the city’s rent-stabilized units–to enact a rent freeze.
De Blasio originally called for the Rent Guidelines Board to suspend any proceedings, but the state questioned the legality of the suspension. Instead, the board will hold meetings remotely. On Friday, the mayor said the board should quickly issue a rent freeze for the city’s roughly one million rent-stabilized apartments, because “Lord knows, people do not need another burden at this moment.”
Last summer, the board voted to approve a 1.5 percent increase on one-year leases and a 2.5 percent increase on two-year leases. The board last issued a rent freeze on one-year leases in 2015 and 2016.
The mayor is also asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to extend the 90-day freeze on evictions he ordered last month to help avoid a wave of evictions after the crisis ends. “We need to make sure that the moratorium on evictions doesn’t run out and that it doesn’t run out prematurely,” de Blasio said on Monday.
The mayor proposes suspending evictions for an additional two months following the end of the pandemic. This mirrors, but falls short of, legislation proposed last week by state lawmakers that would prevent landlords from evicting tenants for unpaid rent accrued during New York’s state of emergency and for six months afterward.
Other proposals pushed forward by City Hall include allowing New York renters who have lost their job because of the coronavirus to defer rent and pay it back over a 12-month payment plan. And de Blasio wants tenants to be able to use their pre-paid security deposits to pay for rent immediately, a plan first introduced by Council Members Keith Powers and Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and Brooklyn President Eric Adams last month.
According to the mayor, the state would have to enact this change. “For a lot of landlords, they would applaud that too, because if the tenant has no money, they have no money and, therefore, the landlord can’t get the money they need to pay the bills either,” de Blasio said on Friday. “Let’s unleash those security deposits for the good of all.”
The city has also launched a tenant hotline via 311 to help renters understand their rights, as well as ways to get relief. Plus, free legal assistance will also be available for those who need it.
The effort to protect the city’s tenants comes after a report released last week found a third of renters did not pay rent during the first week of April. Other than the eviction moratorium, Cuomo has not committed to any other relief plan for New York renters.
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