COVID-19 brought with it many new questions for New Yorkers. How can I stay safe? Where can I shop for groceries? Can I leave my house during a lockdown? Aside from health concerns, financial worries are rife among many residents of rented apartments in New York, with job cuts and pay slashes becoming the norm across some key industries.
Luckily, there may be some respite for some renters facing financial hardships. The NYC Rent Freeze Program will bring forward talks to freeze or roll-back rent for the city’s one million rent-stabilized units. As with everything new that 2020 has thrown at us, you’ve probably got questions.
We’ve gathered some Q and As on the key things you need to know about the rent freeze in NYC.
What is the NYC Rent Freeze Program all about?
The NYC Rent Freeze Program was actually introduced back in 2016 for people living in rent-regulated properties in NYC. It stops rent increases on one-year and two-year lease renewals. The program helps eligible seniors or those with disabilities stay in affordable housing.
This year, the Rent Guidelines Board has engaged in preliminary conversations about how to handle rent freezes for the city’s stabilized units.
Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, other groups of people in New York and around the world have faced brand-new financial hardships. As a result, many are feeling anxious about whether they’ll be able to afford to pay rent and bills.
In response, there have been speculations about rent assistance from the government for renters. In an announcement on 7th May, Mayor de Blasio didn’t confirm that he would be freezing rent in New York for tenants in non-controlled apartments. But he did announce that New Yorkers can use their security deposits to pay rent.
He said: “I urge the state to act and to allow renters to use their security deposits to pay rent. There is no reason at this point given how much dislocation has occurred that a security deposit sitting in a bank account…can help the renter, help the landlord have money to pay for their expenses.”
Am I eligible for rent freeze?
The NYC Rent Freeze Program may apply to you if you are 62 years old or older, or disabled, and earn below $50,000. To be sure, use this rent freeze qualifier tool.
Right now, there’s no explicit rent relief for people living in New York if they don’t qualify for the Rent Freeze Program. However, a housing advocacy organization, Housing Justice for All, is currently pushing for a statewide rent freeze. There may be updates in the near future.
In short, you have to continue paying rent in New York if you’re not eligible for assistance from the government – at least until we hear otherwise from official sources.
Will I be evicted if I can’t pay rent?
On March 20th this year, Mayor de Blasio announced a 90-day ban on evictions through an executive order. This was to protect tenants who may be going through some hardships at the minute. However, that doesn’t mean you’re not obligated to pay rent. The moratorium provides temporary relief to those struggling, who can at least feel confident that they won’t be evicted.
More recently, Cuomo extended the 90-day moratorium until August 20th, 2020.
Might they freeze my rent sometime soon?
Possibly. There are discussions around suspending rent in the city. De Blasio said at a news conference, “If ever there was a time there should be a rent freeze, it is now.”
There is a proposed rent freeze bill in committee, which needs support from Andrew Cuomo before it can be passed. It would help those whom the pandemic has affected financially. This includes residents left without work or who have had salary cuts and small business tenants that can’t operate anymore.
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