March 13 – Advocates and lawmakers are calling on the state to help curb evictions in a time of crisis.
Democrats are rallying behind a bill that would establish a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during a state disaster emergency such as the one recently declared by Gov. Cuomo over the quickly-spreading coronavirus.
“So, the governor would know when they’re declaring a state of emergency it will include this” Assemblyman Harvey Epstein (D-Manhattan) told the Daily News. “This is part of the impact that we are sure we’re aware of when we’re declaring a state of emergency.”
The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Brad Hoylman and Brian Kavanaugh, both Manhattan Democrats, as well as Epstein, comes as advocates called for a temporary halt on evictions as the state grapples with the emerging epidemic and the state court system placed a week-long moratorium will start Monday.
“No one should ever be put at risk & forced to look for shelter during a public health emergency,” Hoylman tweeted Thursday as he announced the bill.
Housing advocates circulated an online petition earlier in the week calling on the state to immediately freeze rents, and institute a moratorium on all evictions and utility shut-offs. As of Friday evening, more than 11,000 people had signed off on the appeal.
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Epstein said he has heard directly from New Yorkers who are already facing financial hardship and are fearful about what the future might bring.
“We’ve heard from a lot of constituents, people who have lost their jobs, people worried about getting unemployment benefits, people being forced to being isolated for two weeks and not having the sick time accrued,” he said. “All these issues keep coming up. People are concerned.”
Industry groups were split on the calls from advocates and lawmakers to put a stop to evictions in a time of emergency.
The Rent Stabilization Association, a landlord advocacy group, said evictions are always a last resort and called for a vague moratorium on “City and State mandated expenses” should lawmakers approve hold on evictions.
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In a surprise move, the Real Estate Board of New York issued an open letter to tenants alerting them that a large coalition of landlords and building owners were voluntarily pledging not to issue any evictions for the next 90 days.
“In crises, New Yorkers pull together. Now is a time for everyone to do their share,” wrote REBNY chairman William Rudin, REBNY president James Whelan. “No one knows how bad the impact of the COVID-19 virus will be. That’s why New Yorkers are taking extraordinary steps to slow the spread of the virus and protect our most vulnerable people.”