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New York braces for evictions with anchor tenant protection set to expire

New York Mayor Eric Adams speaks during an event during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the Bronx borough of New York City, New York, U.S. January 3, 2022 REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

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Jan 14 (Reuters) – A ban on housing evictions is due to expire in New York on Saturday, ending critical economic support put in place at the start of the pandemic and paving the way for a possible landlord rush to try to evict the low-income tenants.

New York instituted the eviction moratorium in March 2020 when it was the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis in the United States and has extended it several times, even though a federal eviction ban and moratoriums in other states have expired.

State and city officials this week expressed concern about the impact of the end of the moratorium, estimating that 500,000 New Yorkers needed housing assistance at a time when the Omicron variant at rapid spread continued to disrupt social and economic life.

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“It’s going to be deep in New York,” said Ellen Davidson, an attorney at the Legal Aid Society. “We expect to see cases explode and Housing Courts struggle to function as they did, pre-COVID.”

While many landlords can move in immediately to evict tenants, Governor Kathy Hochul said this week that tenants could effectively avoid eviction by applying for a rental assistance program, even if the program has run out.

On Thursday, New York Mayor Eric Adams joined Hochul in calling on the federal government to provide a cash injection for the program, arguing that the most populous city in the United States has not received its just part of the federal rent relief.

Adams also launched a campaign to inform tenants of their rights. In a recorded video message, the mayor stressed that it was illegal for landlords to lock out tenants in their homes and that all New Yorkers could get free legal assistance.

Landlords have submitted 81,530 eviction cases in New York City since March 15, 2020, according to Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, which compiled data on 31 cities.

It was unclear how many of those cases would now advance and how many new cases would emerge.

Davidson said New York was particularly vulnerable compared to other states because it has a relatively high percentage of renters, many from low-income households. And she said the state was “harmed” by the federal relief program, which was based on population rather than percentage of tenants.

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Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; edited by Jonathan Oatis

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