Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday evening called for a strengthening of protections for tenants after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the state's ban on evictions, which is set to fully expire at the end of the month.
At the same time, affordable housing advocates mobilized in the wake of the ruling to urge lawmakers to return to Albany and take up legislation addressing the ruling.
All of this comes as New York's state government is going through a leadership transition, with Hochul the governor-in-waiting as Gov. Andrew Cuomo is set to resign Aug. 24 amid a sexual harassment scandal.
Lawmakers were already likely to return to Albany in some form for Hochul's ceremonial swearing-in, but now could also be addressing another effort to stave off evictions amid a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.
"No New Yorker who has been financially hit or displaced by the pandemic should be forced out of their home," Hochul said on Thursday. "As New York State's next Governor, I look forward to working with the Legislature to quickly address the Supreme Court's decision and strengthen the eviction moratorium legislation. I will work with our partners in the Legislature to help get the funding available to those in need as soon as possible."
The Supreme Court blocked a provision in the state's tenant eviction ban that allows renters to file a form that declares a financial hardship, had more expenses during the pandemic, or that moving would harm their health.
A separate provision that allows New Yorkers to stay in their homes if they can show in court they have struggled due to the pandemic remains in place.
The ruling comes against a backdrop in which the state has struggled to distribute billions of dollars in federal aid to tenants and landlords alike this summer. State officials announced earlier this month a more streamlined application process designed to send more money out the door.
Landlords, especially smaller property owners, have also struggled during the pandemic and have criticized the state's ban on evictions as financially burdensome.
Nevertheless, some lawmakers have been discussing an extension of the existing moratorium for another several weeks. One proposal would extend the ban on evictions until Oct. 31.
Advocates on Thursday evening in the wake of the ruling called for legislative action in response.
"We call on the NYS legislature to return to work and amend the law to allow a hearing on the tenant declaration of hardship. We further call to extend the eviction moratorium until the state gives out all of the $2.3 billion in rent relief money," said the Legal Aid Society in a statement. "Since tenants in New York State have suffered immensely during COVID-19, they will have no trouble proving hardship and satisfying the supreme courts’ mandate. The state legislature can make this minor fix and prevent thousands of New York residents from losing their homes.”