On Thursday, June 22nd, 2023, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents, community organizations, and City leaders rallied for public housing rent relief at City Hall Park.
Public housing residents were hit hard during the pandemic – they saw greater loss of life and loss of income during the pandemic compared to the rest of the City. But New York was the only state to ignore public housing tenants in its Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). As a result, there are 71,341 NYCHA households with rental arrears who are at risk of eviction. If the City doesn’t act to protect its public housing tenants, thousands of families could lose their homes.
At the rally, tenants and Council Members also called on the City to fully restore the Vacant Unit Readiness program to ensure swift and safe emergency transfers.
“New York State was alone in deciding that public housing residents were less important than other renters. In my own home, the Polo Grounds, nearly 800 families could be evicted. But we aren’t gonna let that happen,” said Community Voices Heard Member Leader Barbara Williams. “As the city finalizes its budget, I call on Mayor Adams and the City Council to invest $400 million dollars to cover back rent and keep NYCHA running. We won’t be put at the back of the line anymore!”
“As Chair of the Committee on Public Housing, I stand with half a million tenants across this city to demand that the Mayor simply do the right thing: invest in public housing now,” said Council Member Alexa Avilés. “Together, we demand the $338 million gap in rental arrears be fully funded by our city, especially if we are to avoid a wave of evictions that will only further exacerbate the housing crisis. We demand the Vacant Unit Readiness program be fully restored at $31 million – we cannot allow for victims of violence and other New Yorkers in need to put their lives on the line as they await emergency transfers simply because of a failure to properly fund the turnover of these units. We also demand that the city commit an additional $2 billion per year in capital funding to public housing. If we have billions of dollars to build new jails, we most certainly have money to make sure our public housing residents live in dignified conditions. Enough pointing fingers. The City must step up.”
“Living in Lower Manhattan, I personally saw how devastating the pandemic was for families in NYCHA,” said Assemblymember Grace Lee. “This year, I was proud to lead a coalition in the Assembly to secure $391 million in the state budget for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) to pay rental arrears for public and subsidized housing residents statewide, including approximately $165 million for NYCHA residents. This funding will bring direct relief to thousands of families, including hundreds in my district. While substantial, this state funding does not cover the full needs of all NYCHA residents struggling to make their rent. As the City works to finalize its budget, I am committed to working with my City colleagues to secure additional funding to provide rent relief for our NYCHA residents who deserve to live in safe, secure and dignified housing.”
“NYCHA residents are an integral part of our communities, our economy, and our city, but they were ignored by our City government,” said Community Voices Heard Executive Director Juanita O. Lewis. “Over 70,000 NYCHA tenants fell behind on rent during the pandemic, but they didn’t receive the same critical rent relief as tenants in market-rate housing. The State did their part, and now it’s time for the City to do theirs. We call on the Mayor and a City Council to allocate $400 million in the City budget to keep thousands of public housing residents in their homes.”
“Over the past few years New York and New Yorkers have been severely tested. As our city struggles to become whole again, 70,000 New York households in New York City public housing who have fallen behind on their rents are facing the real threat of becoming homeless,” said Marc L. Greenberg, Executive Director of Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing. “At a time when New York’s capacity to accommodate our homeless residents plus our asylum seekers has exhausted all our emergency shelter options, pushing these 70,000 New York City families into homelessness is an immeasurable social disruption that must be avoided at all costs. The Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing stands with our many allies in calling on the Adams administration and the City Council to include $400 million in the city budget for NYCHA rental arrears. Now is a time for our great city to step up to this challenge on behalf of these 70,000 NYCHA households in crisis.”
NYCHA residents lost jobs and lost family members during the pandemic, but they weren’t given any clear pathway for assistance. The City must act now to provide critical rent relief and prevent thousands of evictions.
Photo credit: 1-4) Community Voices Heard.
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