NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Tenants rallied in lower Manhattan on Tuesday morning as a hearing was being held to come up with solutions to fix the issues with the city’s rent relief program.
CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge spoke to tenants and landlords who were testifying.
They said they are not pitted against one another. They both want the same thing — rent relief — but they say the system is broken.
Holding signs that said “We need affordable rent,” tenants rallied before going to testify at an Assembly Housing Committee hearing at 250 Broadway.
As the eviction moratorium looms, elected officials are looking into why rent relief is taking so long to distribute.
“The state’s eviction moratorium expires on Aug. 31, yet the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, which is running our COVID rental assistance program, has been unable to get any rental assistance money out of the door,” said Cea Weaver, campaign coordinator for the group Housing Justice for All.
New York state received $2.6 billion from the federal government to assist people that have been unable to pay rent, like Winsome Pendergrass, who lost her homecare job at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was struggling and friends had to step in and help me for a couple months to pay my rent … I still have not gotten the forms filled out,” Pendergrass said.
The forms Pendergrass is referring to is an online rent relief application process, run by an Illinois consulting group called Guidehouse Inc., that has experienced all kinds of glitches.
“The online application portal has been besieged by problems. Tenants, landlords and the CBOs that have been asked with assisting them have complained that the portal is not intuitive or user-friendly, riddled with bugs,” Assembly members Linda Rosenthal said.
As a result, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance says less than $1 million has been distributed over the last two months and the state can lose it soon if it’s not spent.
“If at least 65% of the allocation isn’t used by Sept. 30 of this year, the federal government can reclaim those funds,” Assembly member Steven Cymbrowitz said.
Tenants and landlords are both demanding a simpler rent relief application process. Joe Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, represents 25,000 landlords.
“All the owners want out of this program is to get paid the rent that’s owed to them by the tenants. They have absolutely no desire to evict during this moratorium. They recognize that tenants have been suffering,’ Strasburg said.
“No one is really advocating for the landlord, especially small landlords. Everybody is losing money and the funds are not being released,” landlord Shanaz Pershad said.