SYRACUSE, NY (WRVO) – New York State is offering a rent relief program to low-income renters who lost income during the COVID-19 crisis. But some local activists say that’s still not good enough and they’re calling for New York to cancel rent payments for the entirety of the pandemic.
The COVID Rent Relief Program provides a one-time rent subsidy, paid directly to landlords, based on the amount of income lost in the past four months. Renters must have paid more than 30% of their household income on rent and that income must be below 80% of the Area Median Income. Critics say the program can only be applied for online, and excludes undocumented people, those in public housing or receiving Section 8 vouchers, and incorporates unemployment payments as income.
“Which is, frankly, ridiculous,” said Stephanie Kenific, an organizer with the Syracuse branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. They’re holding a demonstration on Saturday at the Syracuse Housing Authority, in solidarity with rallies happening across the country, to stop evictions.
In addition to that program, New York has an eviction moratorium in place until August 19. But a federal moratorium on evictions ends Friday. While New York has an extra month of reprieve, Kenific said the day of reckoning for the state is still coming.
“The eviction moratorium doesn’t cancel rent payments,” Kenific said. “Tenants still have to pay their monthly rent sooner or later.”
Kenific said one-third of Americans did not make a full, on-time housing payment in July. That number comes from a survey by ApartmentList.com.
“While Governor Cuomo can claim that he took care of the issue, we know, that’s not the case,” Kenific said.
Residents have until next week to apply for rent relief. In a statement, the commissioner of New York State Homes and Community Renewal said they are prioritizing the applications of households with the greatest economic and social needs. The application is also available in six different languages.