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See if you're eligible for funds through New York's new rental assistance program

Tenants will not need to pay back the subsidy.

By
Collier Sutter
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Since the pandemic arrived in the city earlier this year, thousands of renters have grappled with the looming worry of not making their rent.

Though it looks like a full freeze on New Yorkers' rent is not happening, long-awaited help is finally here for many. The state officially announced an emergency rental assistance program for eligible New York tenants who have been financially impacted.

How does it work?

Eligible households will be given a one-time rental subsidy paid directly to landlords and housing providers. New Yorkers can apply for help in paying up to four months of their rent (from April through July.)

Unlike the eviction moratorium previously put in motion this spring, renters will not owe funds through the rental assistance program.

The program helps New Yorkers in “greatest need,” and aims to keep low-income families in their homes.

Since day one we made it clear that no New Yorkers should be thrown on the streets because of hardships caused by this pandemic," Cuomo said. "It's critically important that people are able to stay safely in their homes as we progress through our data-driven, phased reopening, and the COVID Rent Relief Program reinforces that commitment with direct assistance to those in the greatest need.”

In order to qualify, renters must:

  • Be a renter with a primary residence in New York State.
  • Have made below 80 percent of area median income based on household size (which you can find more about on HCR's website).
  • Before March 1, 2020 and at the time of application, the household must have been "rent burdened," which is defined as paying more than 30 percent of your monthly income toward rent (gross income includes wages as well as any cash grants, child support, social security, unemployment benefits).
  • Have lost income during the period between April 1 and July 31.

How does the rental assistance work? How much will I get toward my rent?

Your one-time subsidy from the state is based on your rent burden. Rent burden is the percentage of your gross household income that you spend on your rent. The state will look at what your “rent burden” was before the pandemic hit (on March 1.) That will then be compared to what your rent burden is now—and, if you have less funds coming in as a result of a drop in your wage or hours, increasing your rent burden, you could be eligible for help. The subsidy will cover funds to get you back to your pre-pandemic rent burden.

What if I’m eligible but already paid my rent in full for one or more of the months I’m applying for?

You can still receive assistance! If a household has already paid all or a sum of their rent money, they can choose to have their landlord treat the relief as pre-payment of rent for one or more months beginning August 1, 2020. Your household can also decide if you want to have your landlord apply the payment to a security deposit instead, if you used it to pay previous rent.

Can I apply for the rent relief program if I live with roommates?

Yup. Renters can apply if they live with roommates—but the assistance will only apply to the portion of the home or rent payment you are responsible for on a monthly basis. If you and your roommate both need assistance, do not apply separately.

The application period will be open for residents for two weeks, starting Thursday July 16.

Families and individuals who were already rent burdened, or living paycheck-to-paycheck, were particularly vulnerable to the sudden loss in income that resulted from the coronavirus pandemic, HCR Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas explains. “The COVID Rent Relief Program builds upon the State's efforts to alleviate the hardship faced by so many tenants with a one-time rental subsidy. By helping our fellow New Yorkers remain secure in their homes, we can continue on our road to economic recovery. 

The program is funded through the Coronavirus Relief Fund, which is part of the CARES Act. It will be administered by the New York State Homes and Community Renewal, and access to applications will be available here starting tomorrow.

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