| Photo courtesy of Empowerment Opportunities.com
Living in New York city does not come cheap. Despite the impression created by television shows like Sex in the City and Friends, the truth is that the sizes of the apartment and the lifestyle of the characters of these series do not match reality. In New York City, comprised of Manhattan, Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island, the area median income is $79,600, according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. That means even if a person does not earn close to that amount, others who live in the area have that kind of income creating a demand for housing and driving the cost of rent up in such a way that a huge percentage of one’s earnings goes to rent.
Thus, when New York went on pause on account of the pandemic, salaried workers, free-lancers, part-time workers and daily wage earners, among others, were anxious about paying their rent. Although the Governor issued Executive Order 202.28 declaring a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures and subsequently the Tenant Safe Harbor Act was passed into law prohibiting evictions of residential tenants but allowing money judgments at least until the area where the tenant resides is shut down due to COVID-19, the payment of rent remains an obligation.
To assist both the tenant and the landlord, applications for the Rent Relief Program started on July 16, 2020. It is designed to provide rent subsidy, paid directly to the landlord for low-income individuals and families who lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The following are questions and answers to provide clarity to one’s eligibility.
Q. Am I qualified to apply?
A. To qualify for the rent subsidy, you must be:
• A renter with a primary residence in New York State.
• Before March 1, 2020 and at the time of application, your household income (including unemployment benefits) must be below 80 percent of the Area Median Income, adjusted for household size. For Queens, New York, Bronx, Kings (Brooklyn) and Richmond (Staten Island), the income limits up to a family size of four (4) are as follows.
• Before March 1, 2020 and at the time of application, your household must have been “rent burdened,” which is defined as paying more than 30 percent of gross monthly income towards rent.
• Applicants must have lost income during any period between April 1, 2020 and July 31, 2020.
Q. How do I apply?
A. Just go to the website https://hcr.ny.gov/RRP
Q. Is there a deadline to apply?
A. Yes, applications end on July 30, 2020.
Q. I’m not behind on rent. Can I still apply?
A. Yes. It can be applied to your future rent. If you qualify, you will be notified how much rent money will be paid directly to your landlord.
Q. I don’t have a lease. Can I still apply?
Q. How much is the subsidy?
A. Up to four months in assistance for the months of April through July 2020 may be obtained but it will be a one-time subsidy paid directly to landlords. It is a subsidy, so it will only cover the difference between the percent of household income you spent on rent on March 1, 2020 and the percent of household income spent on rent at the time the household is applying for assistance. This means it will cover the reduction on income due to COVID-19.
Disclaimer: This does not constitute legal advice and should be used solely for information. No attorney-client relationship is formed in reading this article.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lara Gregory, Esq. is a practicing attorney in New York for over fifteen (15) years who channeled her legal skills and training to help others during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the non-profit group Legal Good, she has been providing helpful information about unemployment benefits, moratorium on evictions, real property tax programs and immigration, with the aim of building community one legal good at a time. For questions and inquiries, go to the Facebook page of Legal Good –https://www.facebook.com/LegalGoodNY/ or email email@example.com