What’s Next for City Tenants During COVID-19?

By Jennifer Henriquez

Approximately two months has passed since the dangerously fast spreading disease COVID-19 practically flipped New York upside down. In the process of self quarantine, residents are struggling to handle the quickly approaching changes heading their way. While most businesses have shut down, unemployment rates have risen, and people are staying at home to protect themselves, a concerning issue raises under the roofs of millions. Rent— how will it be paid if there is no stable income to rely on?

March 20, 2020, marked an important day for New York tenants who were just starting to feel the full impact of the pandemic. On this day, a 90-day eviction halt was announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo. From this eviction moratorium, residential and commercial tenants now have rights to protect them from being evicted if they cannot pay rent in the next 90 days. 

While it’s a relief to have a source of protection from ending up on the streets from the months of April to June, many wonder, will this be enough? This rent halt will come to an end, while COVID-19 continues to run its course. There is no confirmation that by June people may head back to work. Besides, when June comes up, people are expected to pay the previous months of rent they were incapable of paying, and it’s not like that money will magically reappear by June, right?

On April 24, 2020, Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed that the eviction moratorium be extended. According to New York Post journalist, Julia Marsh, “Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday called on the state to extend the Big Apple’s existing eviction moratorium to 60 days past the end of the coronavirus crisis.” The Mayor also proposed that security deposits be used as rent payment if tenants aren’t capable of paying their rent as of now. Lastly, the Mayor demands the Rent Guidelines Board to issue a rent freeze, meaning that rent won’t be increased from year 2020-2021.

While that seems to be a something tenants might look forward to in this time of crisis, Senator Michael Gianaris is proposing something even bigger than an eviction moratorium. He doesn’t just propose halting rent, but he proposes the cancellation of rent for 90 days instead. Meaning, those months of rent won’t accumulate month by month, and will instead be forgiven. According to CBS reporter, Alice Gainer in the article “Coronavirus Update: Calls To ‘Cancel Rent’ Gaining Steam As Business Shutdowns Extend” Senator Gianaris states that if the employments of millions were cancelled for a specific timeframe then rent should be cancelled too. 

Hashtag #CANCELRENT is becoming popular on social media while people express their concern over money they don’t have to pay missing rent. Things like food and medicine have taken priority over anything else resident’s savings may cover. Without any income, it’s worrisome for many that each month the eviction moratorium protects is piling up until the moratorium comes to an end. Then what do New York tenants do? Even with the expectation that people will be returning to work by June, the accumulated rent remains as a troublesome issue that tenants can only hope will be aided these upcoming weeks.

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