As the 2022 legislative session approaches, one of the first issues that will spark debate will be the expiration on January 15 of our state’s most recent eviction moratorium.
In September, the governor and Democratic majorities in the legislature insisted on extending the moratorium for the third time. The move made New York City one of three states to ban evictions and added to the financial devastation for small rental homeowners. Still, no one should be surprised if there are calls from some lawmakers in January to extend it again.
The rental debt crisis first started to spiral out of control due to the ‘self-checking’ difficulties, which essentially allowed anyone to stop paying rent for whatever reason, without anyone. proof is required. It was a system ripe for abuse. The self-verification process was ultimately, and rightly, declared unconstitutional. However, rather than stop there and let the moratorium expire in August as scheduled, the governor and legislature majorities proposed a new moratorium, which they said responded to the Supreme Court ruling and would allow more time for the distribution of rent relief funds.
Yet in so doing, they exacerbated an already dire situation by allowing delinquent tenants to rack up another five months of unpaid rent debt, largely to the detriment of struggling small rental landlords. In the Senate, my majority colleagues justified the extension by saying that unless immediate action was taken, disaster would ensue, with tenants and families being tossed onto the streets within days. It was a blatant lie to propagate the false narrative of the radical vested interests behind this moratorium.
The reality is that, even in ordinary times, the deportation process can take between three and six months. However, given the current circumstances and the huge backlog of cases before the courts, a more realistic time frame for the process would be around a year, maybe more.
Once again, the facts have been sacrificed to a leftist political agenda.
In the meantime, New York’s $ 2 billion federal rent relief allocation has been spent or committed. As I predicted in the Senate during debate on the bill, there was not enough funds to cover the huge rent arrears and losses. There are approximately 70,000 to 80,000 outstanding and unpaid claims. These claims represent more than a billion dollars. Governor Hochul has asked the federal government for additional funds for rent relief, but so far no commitments have been made.
Small owners called my offices to tell me about the difficulties caused by the moratorium. Many have used up their savings. Others have re-mortgaged their properties or depleted their retirement accounts. Still others have sold their rental units to larger entities. A Reuters article confirms the trend for large institutional investors to buy rental homes from small landlords affected by eviction bans, a trend that will exacerbate the affordable housing shortage.
It will be a never-ending cycle, if we let it. For radical supporters of “rent cancellation”, this is the goal: the destruction of private property rights and the elimination of market housing. In their dystopian future, we will live in a state that will look a lot like a socialist third world country where housing options will be limited to private homes for the privileged few and government-controlled housing for the majority.
A leader of the ‘write off the rent’ movement, Cea Weaver, said landlords “shouldn’t be taking advantage of something people deeply need.”
No one disputes that those who are in real need deserve our help. However, this can and should be achieved without reckless and overbroad policies such as moratoriums on evictions. Such efforts will ultimately hurt those they are meant to help and ensure that New York City never fully recovers from the pandemic.
(State Senator George Borrello, County of R-Chautauqua, represents the 57th District of the New York Senate.)