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Deputy Senate Leader Asks Cuomo To Pay Landlords To Forgive Rent

The vacancy rate in Manhattan hit another high last month.

New York Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris is pushing Gov. Andrew Cuomo to establish a $2.2B fund he says would provide support for tenants and landlords alike.

Gianaris — who raised the ire of the real estate industry in 2018 railing against Amazon HQ2 until it left the city — has written Cuomo and urged him to put funds aside to pay eligible landlords if they agree to forgive tenants’ back rent, the New York Daily News reports. Some 1.3 million households would be absolved of their debt under the plan.

A statewide eviction moratorium is in place until May, but many have warned while this has prevented people being thrown out of their homes, many of them are likely accumulating debt with months of unpaid rent.

“New York has spent the last year in the midst of a public health and economic crisis. If we don’t take action now, we will also fall into a housing and eviction crisis,” Gianaris said in a statement. “Whether funds come from the federal government or new sources of state revenue, we must include rent relief in this year’s state budget because tenants deserve peace of mind and small landlords should be made whole.”

The proposal has support from tenant advocacy group Housing Justice for All, which has previously supported the "cancel rent" movement. Campaign coordinator Cea Weaver told Bisnow in August that it shouldn’t be up to the tenants to prove hardship. Weaver said the organization is thankful to Gianaris for pressing the issue.

“We know that with Democratic Supermajority, we can get this done,” Weaver said in a statement. “Recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic will require a deep investment in housing. We need to not only clear the back rent with a $2.2B relief fund, but we need to invest millions in ending homelessness this year.”

Gianaris wants the relief program paid for by increased taxes on high-earning New Yorkers or federal funding. While many are hoping the Biden administration will drive money to New York City, the president’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package has yet to make it through Congress.

Senate Republicans have outlined a pared-down $618B package, which doesn't include state and local funding, but there has been no agreement between the parties on an aid plan as yet.