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Know Your Rights
Source: PIX 11 News
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Advocates say CDC eviction moratorium may not be enough help

A newly issued order from the Centers for Disease Control prohibits anyone from being evicted from their home through the rest of the year.

However, many housing advocates say that because the Trump administration issued the order so suddenly, and because it’s not backed up with federal financing, it may ultimately leave many Americans, including millions of people in the tri-state region, worse off economically than they are now.

About a third of all Americans rent their homes, but in the five boroughs of New York City, the percentage is much higher. Just under two-thirds of residents within the city limits rent.

Agustina Velez, a mother of two who lives in Corona, Queens, is among them.

She said, in a Zoom interview, in Spanish translated by an interpreter, that she hasn’t “been been able to pay rent for six months now.”

“The day before yesterday,” Velez continued, “the landlord came and said he needed the rent, or I was going to be evicted.”

Velez qualifies for the CDC moratorium on evictions. It applies to people making $99,000 per year, or less, who are unable to make rent payments.

In a region like the tri-state area, which has well over five million renters, the provision seems like good news, but because of one key loophole in the CDC order, it may not end up applying to many people at all, as Ellen Davidson, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society explained.

“[For] most tenants in New York state,” said the lawyer who specializes in housing issues, “the landlord is not required to renew their lease. A lot of landlords are using that as an excuse” to try and evict tenants.

It’s a lot of tenants, Davidson said. Half of all renters in New York City have leases that landlords are not required to renew, and “outside of the city,” said Davidson, “it’s almost all of them.”

There may be other provisions of the new directive that could leave even more tenants vulnerable, said Eileen Torres, executive director of BronxWorks, the largest eviction prevention entity in The Bronx. The challenge, said Torres, is that the CDC order was issued without any prior notice.

“We were surprised by it, and are still trying to figure it out,” Torres told PIX11 News. She was among a variety of fair housing advocates who say that more direction needs to come from the federal and state governments.

Jennifer Hernandez, lead organizer at the advocacy organization Make The Road New York, said that legislation that’s pending in Albany needs to get passed, and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“We need immediately Senator [Zellnor] Myrie’s bill,” Hernandez said, and explained that it has safeguards against eviction for all tenants “regardless of situation.”

Also, even if every tenant were to receive a reprieve on rent throughout the rest of the year, they’d still have to repay it at the beginning of next year. Most renters simply don’t have the money to repay the months of rent that they owe.

“The state, the city, someone, needs to… forgive these amounts,” Torres said.

A new stimulus package aimed at financially assisting state and local governments remains in limbo in Washington. It’s unclear what progress will be made on it between now, and Election Day, November 3.