Members of the Housing Justice For All Coalition issued a letter today to New York’s Division of Homes & Community Renewal (DHCR) urging the State Housing Agency to extend the application deadline for an additional four weeks for the COVID-19 Rent Relief Program.
Housing advocates believe not only that the program lacks funding to cover the significant pending eviction crisis, but also that the program has not been designed to be accessible to the public, and that the agency has not been proactive in its outreach efforts with the public.
Tenants are looking to Governor Cuomo to provide solutions for how they will stay in their homes once the Eviction Moratorium is lifted as soon as August 6th. If rent is not cancelled, the coalition estimates up to 1 million eviction cases will be filed against New Yorkers.
The program, essentially a landlord bailout, claims to provide rent assistance in the form of a voucher paid directly to landlords to cover a portion of tenants’ rent for families living at below 80% AMI who experienced rent burden before the onset of COVD-19 and experienced loss of income as a direct result of the pandemic. However tenants across New York who fit that description are complaining to community advocates and the agencies purported helpline that they cannot access the application due to language, technology, and other access issues.
Census data shows that among low-income and communities of color, the majority of renters are currently at risk of eviction when the Eviction Moratorium is lifted. These are the same communities that have been disproportionately impacted by job loss and poor healthcare access, among other institutions, during the pandemic. Many fear leaving their homes to access printing and copying services to mail documents to the agency or have no options to access the online application, with social services organizations and libraries shuttered across the State.
Tenants and advocates from various communities across the State have joined together under the Housing Justice For All Coalition to demand that HCR work with them to make the application process more accessible and extend the deadline by 4 weeks to allow HCR to properly outreach and support tenants through the process, and for tenants to have adequate time to safely navigate the application.