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How close is NYC to instituting a rent freeze?

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One of the heftiest checks New Yorkers write each month is for our (notoriously high) rent. With many Americans losing their job or losing wages already in response to the coronavirus pandemic, there's a growing concern about how thousands will pay rent next week on April 1.

As of Friday March 27, Mayor de Blasio called for a freeze on rent increases for rent-stabilized units. 2.3 million tenants living in these apartments across NYC would not see their rents go up. 

This freeze would cancel the annual process in which the mayor-appointed Rent Guidelines Board decides whether or not (or by how much) landlords of rent-stabilized units can increase rents. The final decision on the freeze requires state approval.

“If ever there was a time there should be a rent freeze, it is now,” de Blasio explained at a news conference. “That’s something I think we have to do given the sheer severity of this crisis.”This article has been updated from its original to reflect new information. 

This article has been updated from its original to reflect new information. 

As of Monday March 23, suspending rent payments for 90 days is officially on the table. On the state level, senate legislation to waive rent payments for the next three months ahead has 20 co-sponsors. The proposed rent freeze bill would help those hit by the pandemic financially including residents left without work or cut wages and small business tenants who have been forced to close up shop.

While ultimately the proposal needs support from Governor Andrew Cuomo in order to pass, you can check if your representative is on the bill, and if they aren't, you can ring 518-455-4100 and ask to talk to them. Don't know what to say? Here's guidance from Housing Justice For All: 

 What other financial relief efforts have been announced in New York so far?

To date, the state has halted evictions and foreclosures temporarily and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced a 90-day suspension on mortgage payments (based on financial hardship.) “People are under tremendous economic pressure,” said Cuomo. “Making a mortgage payment can be one of the number one stressors. Eliminating that stressor for 90 days, I think, will go a long way.” After the 90-day period is up, the state will “reassess as the situation goes on if that should be extended or not,” Cuomo stated.

On Thursday, Governor Cuomo said the state will also void overdraft fees for ATMs and credit cards during this time period. 

Do I have to pay my rent come April 1?

As of right now, yes. While Cuomo said he is halting evictions of any residential or commercial tenants to alleviate some economic and social burden of the pandemic, there has been no word yet for renters. While those New Yorkers struggling to make ends meet can't be evicted, it's a clear economic disaster to then owe three whole months of rent come June.

Is there hope for renters?

Yes. On Friday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would "immediately" pursue the idea of a rent moratorium in New York City while on the Brian Lehrer show.

He explained efforts to build out the hospital capacity was his top priority thus far, but helping New Yorkers have funds to pay for food and medicine was close behind. He said he will be looking into what the city and state can do around a rent moratorium, while making sure landlords also are able to stay afloat "once the smoke clears."

Many other elected officials are also pushing hard for a possible rent freeze with proposed legislation. State Senator Michael Gianaris called for a 90-day rent suspension, a proposal to provide residential and commercial tenants with 90 days of rent forgiveness if they lost their work or had to close their business due to COVID-19. Meanwhile, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson has proposed a temporary universal income for all New York City residents ($550 for each adult and $275 for each child). 

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