EDITORIAL: Lawmakers must return to address evictions

State Capitol Building in Albany.
State Capitol Building in Albany.

Since they’ll likely be back in Albany anyway for the swearing in of the New governor next week, state lawmakers might as well make themselves useful and stick around to help out some New Yorkers who have been struggling during the pandemic.

The state’s covid-related moratorium on evictions is set to expire at the end of the month, potentially leaving tens of thousands of tenants exposed to potential eviction.

The Biden administration recently imposed a nationwide eviction moratorium that lasts until early October. But that order could shortly be overturned by the Supreme Court.

In the meantime, the state has failed to distribute all but a small portion of the $2.7 billion in aid the state received through the federal government to help compensate landlords and help tenants who can’t pay their rent due to financial hardships.

The state only started distributing the aid with any urgency in July and even now, the money isn’t going out quickly.

On top of that, the U.S. Supreme Court last week struck down a portion of the state’s eviction ban that allowed tenants to automatically fend off eviction by self-filing financial hardship declaration forms.

Between the quickly looming end of the state eviction moratorium, the uncertainty over the federal moratorium, the slow distribution of aid to help renters and landlords, and the odd partial ruling by the Supreme Court, all parties involved are experiencing confusion, fear and frustration.

Lawmakers can’t wait until January, when they are set to return to session to take some kind of action.

Next Tuesday’s swearing in of Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul as governor gives lawmakers the perfect opportunity to meet in a special session and address the problems.

The first thing they need to do is extend the state eviction moratorium to at least Oct. 31.

While the landlords are generally against this, the extra couple of months would protect tenants from eventual eviction and allow the state more time to distribute the aid. The special session also would be an opportunity for lawmakers to evaluate the eviction moratorium and perhaps strengthen or improve the existing legislation.

Hochul has said she favors strengthening of protections for tenants.

A new surge of covid cases due to the delta variant could exacerbate the rental crisis in the near future.

Lawmakers have an obligation to help tenants and landlords by revisiting this situation and making necessary changes.

They’re going to be back in Albany next week anyway.

They can’t let this opportunity slip by.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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