A recent survey found New York City renters owe $1 billion in unpaid rent, but the survey only accounts for roughly half of the total rentals, pushing the real debt closer to $2 billion. The New York Times says this debt figure speaks to the inadequate federal stimulus packages and unemployment payments. Landlord trade group Community Housing Improvement Program conducted the survey and focused on buildings subject to the city’s rent-regulation laws, which account for half of the city’s total rental apartments, meaning the real debt figure could be closer to $2 billion. On average, the trade group estimates renters have an average debt of $6,000.
“It’s not an insurmountable amount,” Mr. 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.”
The Covid-19 relief package passed by Congress in December included $1.3 billion in pandemic rental assistance for New York state. It is still unclear how much of that will be made available for New York City, however, or how difficult it will be for tenants to meet eligibility requirements for the funds. State and city housing agencies are expected to roll out their distribution plans for the assistance in the coming weeks.
Housing advocates worry that if eligibility guidelines are too strict, much of the money will sit unused as tenant debts grow deeper. Nationally, about $300 million in federal rental assistance from the spring was still unspent as of December. And in New York, only $40 million of the state’s $100 million in pledged rental assistance had been spent as of the same month, leading Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, to sign an executive order expanding eligibility.