A new survey reveals that New York City apartment tenants are more than $1 billion in debt from missed rent payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Landlord and tenant advocacy groups have lobbied for more government rental assistance during the pandemic as the survey shows that unemployment benefits and federal stimulus packages have not been enough to alleviate the financial burden of missed rent payments.
The survey, conducted by the Community Housing Improvement Program, was based on New York buildings subject to the city's rent-regulation laws, which account for about half of the city's total rental apartments. Executive Director of CHIP Jay Martin said the total debt New York City renters are carrying is likely more than $2 billion.
"It's not an insurmountable amount," Martin said. "The numbers tell us that, probably, if we could get an additional billion or two dollars in the city, we could probably pay off every single renter's arrears in the entire city of New York over the last year of the crisis."
Most New York renters behind on payments during the pandemic have been saved from evictions by federal and state laws. New York City Gov. Andrew Cuomo also extended New York's eviction moratorium. However, as a result, some landlords have fallen behind on their mortgages and other obligations.
When the eviction protections expire, a surge in new evictions and other litigation could happen if rent debts continue.
"The court is not a perfect system but it is the only system we have to adjudicate any relief for tenants [and] any relief for property owners," Martin said.