ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo put out an eviction moratorium executive order back in March when the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown started in the United States.
He later signed the “Tenant Safe Harbor Act” protecting renters from eviction who have experienced financial hardship during the coronavirus state of emergency. Now, his new move expands the protections of that law through the end of 2020.
“I think I was told I’m one of six people that’s right now facing eviction,” says cook Chris Green, now facing eviction in the city. Green and others with the City-Wide Tenants Union say even with legislation from Albany, notices are still getting passed out.
“It’s hard because I have two kids. And I’m a dad. And I like to take care of my kids. And if I don’t have a place to stay, where are they going to sleep?” Green says, tearing up.
Green, during a Zoom call Tuesday with tenant leaders from across New York, says with the pandemic’s financial aftermath, help is still needed. President Trump announced Tuesday that a coronavirus stimulus package will have to wait until after the election.
Pamela Owens at Manhattan Square in Rochester was served a “rent or quit” notice this week. These notices usually are sent for non-payment of rent by a tenant. “And from what I know, they passed out at least 50 of them in the building,” she says.
Owens says greater protections are needed to ensure tenants aren’t kicked out during the pandemic. If evictions go forward, and massive rent bills come due, homelessness will be rampant.
“So many people are being evicted, you know? And I know that so many people are due in court,” she says.
Leaders during the Zoom call say they are asking Governor Cuomo to issue policy, not rhetoric. Some new proposed legislation, like the ‘Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act’ would eliminate rent debt, and create assistance programs for tenants and landlords. It’s currently in committee.
Matt Drouin, who owns and operates a number of properties across the city, issued the following statement Tuesday:
“The Housing Stability And Tenant Protection Act has already done incredible damage to the supply of housing for lower income residents. Dove tail this with extending eviction moratoriums and or ‘cancelling the rent’ and this would spell a deathblow to further investment in housing for lower income residents in our community; who in fact are those with the greatest shortage in housing in the first place, even pre COVID.”-Matt Drouin
Billy Booker, a community activist at Manhattan Square, says if something isn’t done soon to protect tenants, “Here comes the rent strikes”, which Booker says will likely happen in the weeks ahead.
In a statement on the “rent or quit” notices Pam Owens and Billy Booker received at Manhattan Square, Robert Lampher with Portfolio Management weighed in with the below Wednesday:
“All resident households of Southeast Towers participate in various Section 8 Rental Subsidy programs. Each household’s rent obligation is calculated based on their current household income. If a household experiences a loss of income, whether that be from Covid-related or other circumstances, the household can recertify their income and their rental obligation and subsidy will be adjusted accordingly. This has been continually communicated to our residents. Additionally, throughout the Covid crisis, our team has offered to assist residents further with referrals to other forms of Covid-related rental assistance. All notices issued to residents for failure to pay rent and/or recertify their household income for subsidy adjustments have been compliant with the then current laws, regulations, executive and other governmental orders.”-ROBERT LAMPHER, Executive Vice President, Portfolio Management