400,000 NYC families could lose homes as eviction pause lifts, federal aid stalls

400,000 NYC families could lose homes as eviction pause lifts, federal aid stalls

August 5, 2020

As many as 400,000 families across New York City could end up in housing court as the coronavirus takes a toll on people’s health and finances.

The legal actions could take place as the state’s eviction moratorium partially expires this week and negotiations in Washington over a new federal aid bill stalled.

“We have to prevent people from getting evicted,” said Judith Goldiner, the top attorney at Legal Aid. “What are we going to do when 400,000 households lose their apartments and become homeless?”

The moratorium — she added — provides tenants “a bridge, while Washington dithers.”

There are some protections for tenants.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation in June that creates a new defense in housing court for tenants struggling economically during the coronavirus crisis. Judges can now bar an eviction if renters can prove their nonpayment of rent stems from financial hardship that began after the outbreak of COVID-19.

“You have to affirmatively make this case for yourself, it doesn’t just happen,” said Goldiner, pointing out that tenants would have to assemble tax returns and other paperwork to prove the loss and find an attorney to argue their case.

That’s especially difficult for New Yorkers whose jobs largely deal in cash, like delivery workers, handymen, cleaning ladies, babysitters, and contractors.

“It’s an important protection, but it’s not going to save everyone,” she said.

A study by New York University’s Furman Center revealed there are 279,000 working-class families in the Big Apple who rent and received the now-expired $600 weekly boost in unemployment benefits from the federal government to pay their bills.

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