Early in the pandemic and economic crisis short-term moratoriums on eviction for non-payment of rent were widespread and moratoriums were enacted. Governor Cuomo has now extended New York’s moratorium to late September, but bills don’t go away. Unpaid rents just accumulate and smaller landlords are compelled to pay their mortgages even if they can’t collect rent.
Nationwide, housing experts predict that unless governments act, 20 to 30 million households will face eviction when moratoriums end. Once again, immigrants are among those most at risk. Since March many have been unable to pay their rent and utilities in the face of unemployment or illness.
UIDN has provided direct support to at least 150 immigrant families since March. We have budgeted to continue this effort at least through the rest of the year. Depending on circumstances, we have paid all or part of a family’s rent and/or utilities, to keep services in place and/or avoid an impossible mountain of debt at the end of the moratorium.
Requests for help peaked in July. Since then requests have declined as people have returned to work though many remain several months in arrears. UIDN has negotiated with landlords on behalf of tenants for reductions of rent in return for current payments.
Many smaller landlords have been understanding and accommodating and some actually live in their buildings. Larger corporate landlords have been less helpful.
Graphic: Universal Rent Control Now! by Josh MacPhee, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, JustSeeds.
Building a Coalition for Housing Justice
Despite UIDN’s efforts, housing insecurity will remain a permanent threat to a very large fraction of local renters — far beyond immigrants. According to federal standards, housing costs, i.e., rent and utilities, are unaffordable if they consume more than 30% of household income.
People and community groups are mobilizing across the state to demand policies that address the current emergency and ensure that affordable housing is permanently available to low- and middle-income households.
UIDN has joined the new Ulster County Coalition for Housing Justice to press officials for long-term solutions to housing insecurity. The Coalition is recruiting additional member groups and is circulating a petition signed by more than 700 people as of August 20.