Affordable housing set to collapse like ‘house of cards’ warns RSA

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The Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 landlords of the one million rent-stabilized apartments in the five boroughs, has slammed the state’s new COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act.

RSA President Joseph Strasburg warned that a blanket eviction moratorium without the requirement of proving economic hardship effectively encourages thousands of employed tenants – many using their apartments as their workplace – not to pay rent, and will push the city off the cliff of bankruptcy and take down the affordable rental housing infrastructure like a house of cards.

JOE STRASBURG

“Owners recognize and support the need to help tenants without sufficient financial resources to pay rent due to job loss or health circumstances. However, this state legislation extends the eviction moratorium for residential tenants based on the submission of a simple declaration of financial hardship without proving such hardship caused by COVID-related job loss or income reduction,” said Strasburg.

“With no requirement of proof that the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected their income, and no income limitation to qualify for eviction protection, a tenant whose household income went from a half-million dollars to $250,000 would qualify for eviction protection by declaring that their income has been ‘significantly reduced,’” Strasburg said.

 “Technically, it has – but they clearly could afford to continue paying their rent and should not be protected by an eviction moratorium. 

“This law should have the same scrutiny and eligibility review as Section 8, senior citizen rent increase exemption, and other government-sponsored assistance.  Anything less, what impetus would there be for any tenant to pay rent, even if they are still employed – including thousands working from the apartments they will be withholding rent payments?” Strasburg added.

Strasburg said the legislation is in stark contrast to California’s legislative approach in their eviction law (AB3088), which requires tenants earning $100,000 on 30 percent of AMI to provide documentation supporting their hardship claims.

“A cap on the amount of the rent level would ensure that the benefits of this legislation would reach those that need it.  This legislation does not make a serious effort to require tenants to take advantage of available rent relief – such as the DHCR rent relief program, the federal rental assistance program, or the city’s HRA one-shot program.  Lawmakers should be directing their constituents to these programs, whose funds are critical to landlords in maintaining and keeping their buildings safe and to paying their real property taxes – the latter vital to keeping the city and essential services afloat,” Strasburg said.

“The tsunami of evictions is not occurring; in fact, a minimal number of evictions have been executed since March 7 – and those cases pre-dated March 7.  Tenants have been protected by the Governor’s eviction moratorium executive orders and the Safe Harbor Act,” Strasburg said.

The Senate Democratic Majority today passed the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act.

Considered the strongest bill in the nation to block eviction proceedings from going forward, it allows renters and homeowners to stay in their homes if they are facing hardships due to the pandemic for at least 60 days .

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