April 22, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
Council Member Costa Constantinides is backing state legislation that would cancel the rent for tenants who are unable to meet their monthly obligation as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown.
Constantinides introduced a resolution in the city council Wednesday seeking the support of his colleagues to put pressure on Albany to pass such legislation. The city council has no authority to cancel rent payments, with the power in the hands of state legislators.
However, the passage of a council resolution– although not legally binding– sends a strong message to Albany lawmakers.
Constantinides said he introduced the resolution since people should not have to worry about how they will pay for rent during the pandemic.
“This should be the last of anyone’s concerns as they try to stay safe, care for their families, and access healthy food,” Constantinides said Wednesday.
Constantinides and Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who represents the 10th Council District, introduced the resolution in support of a bill that is currently going before the state senate and assembly. The bill has been introduced in the state Senate by Mike Gianaris and by Yuh-Line Niouin in the Assembly.
The bill calls for the 90-day suspension of residential rental payments for tenants who have lost income as a result of the COVID-19 government shutdown. The bill also applies to small business commercial tenants that have been forced to close their place of business due to the government shutdown.
Landlords who face financial hardship as a result of missed rent payments will receive forgiveness on mortgage payments for 90 days, according to the legislation.
Gianaris welcomed the resolution and said that it has been clear for weeks that rents cannot be paid with money that doesn’t exist. He said that either lawmakers legislate for rent cancellation or people will end up not paying rent anyway due to a lack of income.
Many New Yorkers are struggling to pay rent since so many are out of a job due to the shutdown.
Since the COVID-19 crisis began, the Department of Labor has paid insurance benefits to 1.1 million New Yorkers but the payments have still left residents without enough money to cover rent.
Canceling rent payments and suspending mortgage payments during the pandemic is now supported by a majority of voters nationwide, according a recent poll of 1,086 likely voters released by Data for Progress and conducted by The Justice Collaborative.
The poll showed that 55 percent of likely voters said they would be in favor of such a proposal while 33 percent are opposed to it, according to the poll released on April 17.
Constantinides’ resolution was referred to the Council Committee on Housing and Buildings.