The Biden administration has extended the federal moratorium on evictions through July 31 in what it calls its final extension due to the pandemic.
The announcement comes as data shows over 1 million New Yorkers are behind on their rent. Housing advocates said they want Governor Andrew Cuomo to extend the state’s eviction moratorium that ends on August 31. The state mandate is broader and supersedes the federal mandate in New York.
Ann Oliva, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said moratoriums are not enough, and that the federal government needs to distribute more housing vouchers, which are administered by the U.S. The Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide federal dollars to help tenants pay for a portion of rent.
“We must sharply expand the Housing Choice Voucher Program so that more households who are eligible can receive the assistance they need when they need it,” she said. This benefits low-income people. It benefits landlords and it benefits communities. It also helps us be more prepared for future crises.”
Landlords must opt into the housing voucher program and are paid the difference in the subsidy by the tenant. The program has a years-long waiting list and only a quarter of eligible households are receiving benefits.
Ian Wilder, executive director of Long Island Housing Services, sees a universal basic income as another long-term solution.
“Every program that we have seen that is targeted to help on rent or mortgages has such a time delay and onerous application requirements that they do not effectively meet their goal,'' he said. “Much needed funds are eaten up in creating the machinery to help people both try to successfully apply for the funds, to appeal wrongful denials and for the bureaucracy to determine if the applicant is eligible.”
Wilder also blamed landlords who are unwilling to participate in rental assistance programs, including housing vouchers, “for fear of being found out to have rental that does not have the correct municipal permit.”
National data analyzed by the Center on Budget and Policy shows the housing crisis has had a disportionate impact on people of color. Nearly 25% of Black renters were behind on rent, compared to 10% of white renters. About half of those spending more than half of their income on rent are Black.
“Emerging research suggests that eviction filings tend to be higher in communities with lower vaccination rates,” said Alicia Mazzarais, the center’s senior research analyst. “These are often predominantly Black or Latino communities whose members often face greater barriers to vaccine access, such as flexible work schedule, difficulty getting to vaccination sites or fear of being asked to provide a driver's license in order to receive a vaccine.”
Housing advocates were also critical of the federal government’s distribution of $46 billion in emergency rental assistance to communities of color during the pandemic.