ALBANY — Gov. Kathy Hochul and legislative leaders are probing how to respond to a court decision and the oncoming end of the state’s moratorium on evictions, including the possibility of convening a special session in Albany.
"We are exploring all options to further protect New Yorkers from eviction, including with the legislative leaders," Hochul said Friday. Legislative sources said lawmakers are discussing bringing in the Senate and Assembly next week to act.
The governor’s statement comes as a convergence of factors — a looming deadline, a stalled aid program and a court decision — has put a spotlight on New York’s eviction moratorium, which was put in place because of the pandemic.
The end of the state moratorium is just days away — Tuesday. With the deadline looming, New York has doled out less than 10% of the $2.4 billion the federal government gave it to provide rent relief to tenants and landlords. Another 25% worth of the money has been approved but not distributed.
State leaders believed New Yorkers, who have yet to close out rent debts, also would be protected by a separate federal moratorium, extended until Oct. 3. But on Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration from enforcing the temporary ban on evictions.
Some progressive legislators say the Senate and Assembly need to act soon to extend the moratorium at least for a short term.
"Hundreds of thousands of NYers risk losing their homes," Sen. Alessandra Biaggi (D-Pelham) wrote on Twitter after the Supreme Court decision. "The NYS Legislature cannot wait a day longer and must reconvene to extend NY’s eviction moratorium."
The Robin Hood Foundation, an anti-poverty organization, joined the call. "If we allow thousands of households to be evicted while the state works on improving the rollout of its program, this additional investment will amount to far too little and come much too late," said Jason Cone, the foundation’s policy director, on Friday.
Landlords have fought the idea of extending the moratorium any further, saying many people have returned to work. Opponents of extending the moratorium noted that anyone who applies for the rent aid will be protected from eviction for a year or until their case is resolved, so there’s no need to take further action.
"The idea that a tenant who receives an eviction notice in NYC is going to be immediately removed from their apartments … is simply not factually true," Jay Martin, executive director of Community Housing Improvement Program, a building owners’ group, wrote on Twitter.
Martin said courts are so backlogged it could take months to even schedule an eviction hearing.
Legislative leaders discussed the issue earlier this week with Hochul, who became governor on Tuesday after Andrew M. Cuomo resigned.
"We are continuing to have three-way discussions," said Michael Whyland, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), on Friday, referring to the Assembly, Senate and Hochul.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) confirmed the ongoing talks and added: "This is the time for government to step up and protect all New Yorkers as we continue to battle this pandemic."
The Supreme Court decision Thursday wasn’t the first time the court has acted on the issue. Earlier this summer, it struck down a key provision of New York’s moratorium which gave tenants the power to block eviction proceedings simply by signing a form declaring that they had a financial hardship due to the pandemic. The court said landlords were entitled to challenge such declarations in court.