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When a rep for 25,000 building owners in the city testifies before lawmakers Tuesday on why the state has handed out so little of its $2.6 billion in federal rent-bailout money, he plans to point the finger right back at them. He’s got every right to do so.
“Lawmakers should look in the mirror because their politics and legislation caused New York state to be the last in the country to establish a [rent-relief] program — nearly six months after federal funds became available,” fumes Rent Stabilization Association President Joseph Strasburg. “Landlords and their tenants are frustrated beyond comprehension.” He says not even 1 percent of the available funds has gone out.
One landlord submitted 700 applications, yet only eight were processed; another sent in requests for 200 separate payments and got just one, for $9,000.
The result: Owners are left holding the bag, unable to collect rent or evict tenants, and are struggling to pay their own bills.
“We are at the tipping point,” pleads Strasburg, desperate for a “financial lifeline.” While tenants skip payments with no consequences, owners get no such pause on their property taxes, water bills, insurance, mortgage payments or the costs of cleaning, maintenance and repairs.
Chalk up some of the delay to incompetence. The state’s Web site for the program is riddled with technical problems. Tenants and landlords get e-mails saying applications are not complete long after they’ve been completed.
Yet much of the delay has also been caused by lawmakers themselves, who opted to create a complex program with an array of rules suiting their own political needs, which has only served to complicate and slow down distribution.
And now some lawmakers want to extend the state’s eviction ban to Oct. 31, even beyond the Oct. 3 date for President Joe Biden’s extended federal ban.
Strasburg suggests a range of steps Albany can take to help landlords — such as creating a targeted tax credit for small owners and having state officials work more closely with applicants.
It’s clear, though, that landlords, and tenants, have gotten a bum wrap. They badly need help. Officials owe it to them to make it right.
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