A proposed ban on winter evictions in New York is a simple gesture of humanity.
You don’t throw people out in the cold because they’re poor and unable to afford a basic human right to safe shelter for themselves and their families. Could anyone see a family being thrown out on the streets or into a homeless shelter on a day like today? Of course not.
Evictions in general contribute to higher mortality rates, mental and physical health conditions, more emergency room visits and hospitalizations, suicides, and problems affecting the health, education and mental well-being of the children involved. The problems of homelessness are exacerbated during cold weather, contributing significantly to exposure-related health problems and other stresses.
But a blanket ban on all winter evictions is a simple solution to a complex problem that by itself does nothing to address the underlying problems of people being unable to afford their rent or of finding an affordable place to live.
A bill pending in the state Senate, S1403, would suspend all pending unexecuted judgments and warrants are automatically through the end of the winter moratorium period.
If you’re a landlord, that’s five-and-half months out of 12 that you might not collect any revenue on your property; five-and-a-half months of having your property damaged or depreciated by a protected tenant; and even more months if you have to continue the eviction process beyond the expiration of the moratorium.
Still, from a compassion point of view, the winter eviction moratorium is the right thing to do, and lawmakers should consider passing one in some form.
Other states, cities and countries have experimented with winter eviction bans. Use them as a resource for the best legislation.
But such a ban can’t exist in a vacuum.
It needs to be accompanied by enhanced assistance for renters, including assistance that helps them pay for childcare and other necessities so that they have money to pay their rents.
In anticipation of a surge in the need for housing in the spring, officials need to use the time during suspension of winter evictions to step up efforts to identify housing stock that will be needed.
Lawmakers also need to expedite rental programs and remove impediments to allow landlords to accept tenants who are on state assistance and to ensure that the landlords receive incentives and financial relief.
To help tenants find other housing and expedite searches, the state separately should create a comprehensive, online database of housing available to low-income residents.
To help boost the number of properties available to rent, state and local governments need to continue the governor’s push to construct or otherwise make available more affordable housing throughout the state. If local governments won’t change their zoning to allow more affordable housing on their own, the governor has threatened to force changes. Better local governments decide locations for themselves.
See? We said it wasn’t a simple problem.
The winter eviction moratorium is a stop-gap measure for a problem in need of real solutions.
Pass it. But don’t let the effort stop there.