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Nearly Half Of NYCHA Residents Are Behind In Their Rent

A NYCHA property on St. Nicholas Avenue in Manhattan

Tenants in New York City’s public housing owe a collective $443M in rent, a situation worsened by the fact that none of them have received rental assistance from the state of New York.

Nearly 50% of residents living in New York City Housing Authority units owe rent, and many have applied for the the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program, The City reports. The program — which has exhausted its funds — deliberately put public housing residents at the bottom of its priority list, but anyone who has applied for the funding can’t be evicted by their landlord, including NYCHA.

ERAP is set to stop taking applications starting Jan. 15 unless more funding arrives, which the state agency doesn't expect.

“ERAP has really changed the culture at NYCHA,” NYCHA Chief Financial Officer Annika Lescott-Martinez said at a press conference. “It’s created this situation where even now, after the ERAP opportunities are closed, it’s created this idea that ‘We’re just not going to pay our rent to see what happens.’ There’s this false hope that they’re going to get some sort of funding.”

Rent arrears are up $100M from March 2020. ERAP’s funding has been depleted several times, and the agency responsible for running it, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, asked the Treasury Department for $1B in November. State lawmakers provided $800M for it in this year's budget.

As of Nov. 30, the program had provided landlords with about $2.7B and paid out some 213,000 applications. But landlord advocates said keeping the program open hasn't been effective.

"If there is no funding for the program, then you are just peddling false hope to renters," Jay Martin, executive director of landlord advocacy group Community Housing Improvement Program, told Crain’s New York Business last week.

As of Nov. 30, roughly 73,000 households — some 46% of all tenants — in NYCHA had fallen behind in some way on their rent. NYCHA officials are pushing legislators in Albany to move public housing tenants up to the top of the list, or relax the rules to allow NYCHA to pursue tenants behind in their rent through the courts.

NYCHA reached an agreement with the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2019 to work to a timeline to spend billions in delayed repairs, such as fixing broken boilers, elevators and removing mold, lead paint and vermin from the properties. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York found NYCHA officials had lied for years about the state of the units. The rental shortfall is set to endanger the agency’s ability to hit the deadlines, according to The City