You are reading

We Need to Cancel Rent During the Coronavirus Pandemic: State Sen. Mike Gianaris

Astoria homes (iStock)

Op-ed: April 1, 2020 By State Sen. Mike Gianaris

America is facing an unprecedented public health crisis which will soon become an unprecedented economic and housing crisis.

With rents due April 1 and jobless claims expected to pass 3.5 million this week, we could see millions evicted from apartments, homes foreclosed upon, and small businesses permanently shuttered – leaving even more people out of work.

New York is the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis and we are taking serious measures to stem the bleeding. Governor Andrew Cuomo has done a commendable job managing this crisis, including by issuing an executive order halting evictions and foreclosures for 90 days.

But this isn’t enough – many New Yorkers live paycheck to paycheck and do not have three months of back rent saved.

New legislation I introduced last week would suspend and forgive rent payments for residential and small business tenants for 90 days, as well as provide some relief for small property owners. This has received an outpouring of support, nearly crashing the State Senate website over the weekend.

According to Data for Progress’ surveys conducted with The Justice Collaborative, suspend and forgive programs enjoy broad public support: 76% of poll respondents indicated support for some version of suspending and forgiving rents for residential tenants. Few policies receive this level of public support: 83% of Democrats are behind it, and even 72% of Republicans are in support.

Data for Progress

Data for Progress puts critical data behind suspending and forgiving rent, but let me put a human face on it. My office has had its voicemail filled by people telling their own stories. A freelance arts teacher, who does not receive sick leave or traditional unemployment, let me know that with all her classes now cancelled she has no income and cannot pay her bills. Another caller, a hair salon owner, lost all their personal and business income.  They fear losing both their apartment and salon – and their livelihood for years to come.

State Sen. Mike Gianaris

There is a moral imperative to #CancelRent. Thousands, if not millions, of New Yorkers are on the financial brink. We often say many New Yorkers are just a paycheck away from poverty. The time has come where the paychecks have stopped coming. We need to take urgent and critical action now to suspend and forgive rents for people who are in need of assistance during the pandemic.

What can we do? I am working to garner support in the legislature to pass my bill – and I am excited to have nearly two dozen Senate cosponsors of the bill and support in the Assembly. The Governor could also, if he so chooses, enact such a policy through executive order. We need people to keep being active voices – call your elected officials and express your support for this policy. Working together, we can deliver the critical relief people need at this difficult time.

State Sen. Mike Gianaris is the Deputy Majority Leader in the New York State Senate. He represents New York’s 12th State Senate district, which includes Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and parts of Woodside, Maspeth, Ridgewood and Woodhaven.

This op-ed first appeared on the site Data for Progress

email the author: [email protected]

50 Comments

Click for Comments 
Cg

Why arent we heari g anything further about this as the may rents come due in 10 days ?!?!?

Reply
Bill

Ok so will you contact my mortgage company as well and negotiate no mortgage payments if my tenants don’t pay the rent? Will you be there if I default on my mortgage because of your law? Not every landlord is a massive property owner with thousands of units, there are a lot of us in western Queens who busted our ass to buy small houses which we share and I’m supposed to cover housing for strangers who live in my house?

11
Reply
Gary

Deliver food …. work in supermarket … you have a lease … rent is payment for a place to live … you would think different if you were a landlord … stop crying and go get another job and at least make an effort to pay as much of your rent as you can … and in the meantime help maintain the property … sweep etc

13
Reply
Stan

When the rents are not paid, how are the landlords expected to pay their expenses. Will they have some recourse during this emergency?

10
Reply
Mr G

Mortgages are not cancelled by Cuomo… they can be delayed maybe … stop and shop … Walmart etc are hiring … it’s not fair to not pay rent … pay rent get a place to live … don’t pay rent move in with a friend or your parents … maybe you guys have not saved for a rainy day… shame on you …. bet u all have fancy phones … big TVs …. ipads .. etc … now you want the landlord to suffer… shame on you … how many 12.00 drinks gave you spent your money on … get real ….

10
Reply
CP

He has some nerve to tell people to stop paying rent for 90 days. What about all of the bills that come along with sharing the home that was purchased at a stupid inflated price? Mortgage, real estate tax, water and sewer, con ed, supplies and maintenance? I think landlords can work with their tenants but should not get nothing at all. What about when landlords don’t get paid for 90 days and then have to start eviction and lose another 6 months on top to get someone out? I would like to know if landlords are going to get some sort of bailout as well? The banks are all getting bailouts. Maybe they should not collect the mortgage for 90 days. Maybe the city should not collect $10K in real estate tax this year? #lifelongastorian

Reply
CG

My landlord has been granted a 90 day reprieve from his mortgage obligations and I need that same consideration as a tenant with now NO INCOME and children at home who need to be fed, schooled and sheltered. We will all have to share the pain that these circumstances mandate. If we were under air raids, bombs and shooting in a war situation would we be expecting people to pay their bills ? Or fight for survival and keep under cover… a lot of these ancient greek landowners should remember WWII . Bear in mind too that many of you paid next to nothing for your properties 20/30/40 yrs ago and you live off the rent you collect and social security Nd whatever pensions and investments and savings. Consider your tenants -a family of four with a pre crisis income of $100-200k who even at that are still broke and living one month at a time with no pension, no savings, no down payments in an environment where a piece of junk house that hasnt been touched in 30yrs cost in excess of a million dollars… let alone the 20 something tenants who have careers pouring coffee and waiting tables…. (all of whom now
Lack the ability to pay your rent) . Stop speaking selfishly and keep this in perspective. Put the AMERICAN in Greek American and get on board here. You are probably not getting rent one way or the other anyway. You cannot initiate non payment actions for 90 days to begin with and the housing court is not going to be sympathetic to a property owner over a economically crippled
Family of renters.

Reply
Joe

Mortgage obligations are rarely even half the expense burden of these small businesses (given current bank required debit coverage ratios). So you are not actually asking your landlord to “share the pain” you are asking them to take all of it from you. For example, among other expenses their property taxes is the main source of revenue for the city. So you pay nothing and they cover the 50% of your rent needed to cover building expenses (even with a mortgage reprieve) in addition to foregoing all of the small business profit that they rely on to feed their own family.

Also silly to say that since they bought their home 40 years ago they should have plenty of money. If you realized how inflation worked, you’d realize that 40 years ago that “Greek American” (as you call them) was likely making a dollar equivalent salary much less than yours and still was able to sacrifice and to save for his own families future. The AMERICAN you speak of is their ability to sacrifice for a better future. A future you that you are so quick to take from them now without seemingly an ounce of sacrifice on your part. How much of your 200k in expenses a year are essential vs things you want. I know plenty of families that save for their future making much less than that.

I don’t even know how to begin to explain that SS money they get today is, again, their own money that they paid into the system. What you are talking about is stealing.

Reply
Joanna

Welcome to Progressive paradise where everything is free and the crisis pays for it.

8
1
Reply
ANTONY CARIS

WHO ARE THE VOTERS.
ASK THE LANDLORDS FOR THEIR OPINION.
I THOUGHT YOU SUPPORT “DEMOCRACY”, as a GREEK DEMOCRATIC LEADER.

9
3
Reply
Mutley

This will cause more problems in the long run between tenant and landlord. If you’re not going to suspend real estate taxes and water bill, small landlords will get crushed. Especially ones that have a rent stabilized building. While I understand many people lost their jobs, not everybody lost their jobs. Some people will actually make more money off unemployment than their former job. Beware if your in a free market apartment as landlords will significantly raise the rent to make up lost monies. Something to think about.

19
Reply
Dougie Sherwin

No one makes more on unemployment than he or she did working. You should try it some time if think it’s fun.

And if you think rents are going to go up, you need to take your meds. Once this is over, rents and values are going to go down in ways that will wake even someone as sleepy as you up.

Reply
Richard Khuzami

“We at Old Astoria Neighborhood Assn (OANA) ask that you make sure that the rent holiday, which we support, is not financed on the backs of small landlords. We ask that any costs be borne by either the Banks or the Government.

We also feel that the rent holiday should mirror the terms of the mortgage relief. In other words, if mortgage payments are deferred, not forgiven then rent relief should also be deferred.

A comprehensive, holistic package needs to be pursued so that our housing remains healthy. We don’t need an influx of foreclosures, especially when the mortgage holiday ends. There is no more direct path to a repeat of the 2008 crisis (Which was based on the collapse of mortgages) than allowing housing costs to exceed income

Also, while it is a positive that there is a possible holiday for mortgage payments (We don’t know the specific criteria yet), it does not address taxes, insurance, and utility costs. These need to be included also in the package so that no one feels forced to look for work.

I know that in most small landlord’s cases, mortgage is often no more than 75% of their total costs.

We are all working towards a healthier society on many levels. This is an important facet with long term implications.”

15
1
Reply
Joe

Should be this…

Property taxes & Water/Sewer are like 25% of a typical buildings income, if deferred then rents should be deferred (not canceled) by the same amount.

Other expenses are impossible to generalize
– Not every one has a mortgage.
– Can’t possibly track all utility & fuel expenses or insurance, maintenance, etc…

If these families are required to “tighten their belts” and make some tough decisions of what niceties they have to forego, the city should have to do the same with their own bloated budget.

Reply
CG

If you cannot work and are home with families to keep fed you cNnot pay rent -pure and simple. The reality is that right now between a 90suspension of initiating evictions and the fact that if/when an eviction for non payment is filed housing court will grant 6 mos to a year to any tenant attempting to make payments . Any landlord is currently facing not collecting rent for the better part of a year anyway…. wake up and smell the coffee here. We need to give people relief or there will be massive civil unrest as people begin to run out of money and basics and food… if they dont do this we are opening ourselves up to looting, robbery, property damage -not to mention massive increases in people being without shelter. We cannot allow people to get desperate, because desperate people will begin engaging in desperate behavior. There will be chais if a concession is not made for the situation we are ALL in right now .

5
14
Reply
Doc

Canceling rent on property that you don’t own is looting, so why not extend it to all businesses. Landlords are not special, lets steal from everyone that worked hard to build a business, screw them. Right?

19
1
Reply
Mr G

Let the city pay the rent for these people … they do it for Public Housing… don’t let the landlord have to suffer too… no such thing as free rent for most people …. give the landlord part of rent if u can ….

25
Reply
James

This is unconstitutional and the topic is off the table. Familiarize yourself with the Takings Clause. The government cannot come in and take our money without just compensation. We landlords pay 30% of all NY tax revenue in our property taxes. THIRTY PERCENT. Good luck getting anything done without us and our property tax payments. Thank god for the Constitution.

28
Reply
Irwin Manglehoff

As if our government runs according to the Constitution. Or the courts were fair.

Good luck winning that fight.

Reply
Joe

@James Though correct, it’s actually worse than that. Check the latest numbers, its way above 30%… over 50% and climbing. Will get worse as they try to squeeze more property taxes from 1-3 families and buildings less than 10 units (squarely small businesses) as part of the recent tax reform the current administration is trying to push through.
https://www1.nyc.gov/site/propertytaxreform/report/preliminary-report.page

However well intentioned its followers are, democratic socialism (aka any marxist based ideology like communism) is not free and someone has to pay. Turns out, they are trying to get homeowners to foot the entire bill. I used to be a liberal until the democratic party in NYC was stolen instead of starting their own communist party and seeing how they would fare. However sad, Gianaris is simply trying to keep up with the new competition within his party to get ahead.

Reply
Gardens Watcher

Jobless claims were almost double what was expected: 6.6 million, not 3.5 million. And that doesn’t include those who couldn’t even file a claim since the state systems are crashing due to volume.

The state budget is overdue now, Senator G. Do your job responsibly! Introducing a Suspend and Forgive Rent program of course is wildly popular. But barring a medical breakthrough, this virus is not going away anytime soon. So where is that money going to come from?

I understand Albany is standing on quicksand with the budget, but to answer your question “What can we do?” YOU could do your part by proposing a pay CUT for legislators — or better yet, a pay suspension.

16
Reply
Anonymous

The mortgage is suspended for three months, the amount of money that is owed does not change. The plan to cancel rent does not delay the payment of rent, it eliminates it. It is not similar relief.

11
Reply
Antony Caris

How about the LANDLORDS that have to pay REAL ESTATE TAXES, MORTGAGE, INSURANCE, REPAIRS ETC.
ARE YOU WORRYING ABOUT THE TENANTS THAT GET HELP FROM ALL OVER AND NOT THE LANDLORDS THAT ARE GOING TO LOSE THEIR HOUSES.
YOU-MISTER GIANNARIS THAT
WE VOTE SHOULD PAY THEIR RENT UNLESS YOU ARE A TENANT TOO.

13
Reply
steven

I’m a freelancer, DBA an individual for the past 32 years in NYC. all of my gigs have been cancelled & with my rent due with an increase I dont know how I would be able to continue living & working in NYC. A rent forgiveness for at least three months would be a GOD-SeND … I am now looking into whatever grants there are to help put food on my table… Thank you for all youre doing to relieve this pressure.

3
16
Reply
Joe

That is unlawful seizure of property, you know, the fourth amendment. A property tax, mortgage, water & sewer, fuel, insurance, maintenance, etc… forgiveness for homeowners and small business landlords for three months would also be a GOD-SeND. Can’t cancel 100% of the income without canceling 100% of the expenses.

Reply
Tom

Now that we are all being asked to stay home, it’s beginning to sound like you are better off getting laid off as soon as possible so that you can qualify for some of these federal, state and city benefits! Free healthcare would be a blessing right now and most important for those that qualify. Rent freeze should be for all of NYC!!

4
18
Reply
Your Neighbor

That sounds great! We are all for it! Granted you suspend mortgages, utilities and property taxes for those properties as well!!!!

16
3
Reply
Demetri

Are landlords going to be exempt from paying taxes, and all bills associated with maintaining a building for the time period that people are exempt from paying rent?

25
3
Reply
Osmar Reis

It would be a definitely help to many people in NY , no money coming in but rent and all other bills that has to be paid will creates a major problem for many families.

14
18
Reply
Joe

Your actions are dangerous and irresponsible. You cannot cancel rent without canceling property taxes, water and sewer, oil and gas, mortgages. Most landlords in queens are small businesses and you are talking about suspending 100% of their income to worsen the effect of this crisis squarely on the people that are most affected. Further, how can you advocate for relief only for only renters while ignoring homeowners.

24
2
Reply
Eve

Mortgages are not the only expenses that a landlord has to pay. There are many more expenses incurred when owning and renting a home.

10
Reply
John

No they have not. Normal home mortgages have only been suspended NOT cacelled. Meaning you are still going to have to pay it at a later time. Commercial mortgages have NOT been cancelled NOR suspended. They are due as normal!!!

Reply
Concerned Citizen

Mr Gianaris, You have no right to pick the pockets of small homeowners in your district. Some of these homeowners may not have a mortgage but may rely on rents for their income. In these unprecedented times we are all going through this together and the last thing we need is a politician pitting people against each other.
If you are really worried about people not being able to pay for their rent, you should provide a grant.
Here is how I see things, you are not worried about people’s income or ability to pay rent. You are worried about your next election and you have been trying to buy votes ever since you chased Amazon out of our borough.
Maybe if you sat at the table with Amazon last year instead of ranting, we would have a lot more jobs, opportunities and tax revenues this year to support the needs of your constituents. And on a lighter note, a betterchance to get a delivery from Amazon Fresh.

41
11
Reply
Paula

His last name alone will keep older Astorians (much like how Costa got elected) voting for him so he has to do the right thing and appeal to the growing number of new voters throughout his district. Caban did very well in Astoria and so did AOC. Though some younger working folks in Astoria might not qualify for the above benefits they tend to vote in favor of politicians and policies that sound like they are helping the less fortunate in society. And the truth is renters overwhelming out number landlords and owners nowadays throughout Astoria and his district.

2
3
Reply
Chas

That said, I couldnt agree with you more. and most of the others posting here. It’s crazy to just blanket the city with an order to not collect rent. If this is done, I agree with cancellation of utility and insurance payments Mortgages too. If the renters were to get totally cancelled rent for the time frame then Landlord homeowners should as well. In fact whatever the renters are entitled to so should be the Homeowners. If a landlord’s tenants are willing to pay rent then the landlord shouldnt be entitled to cancellation of normal financial responsibilities. Also if tenants are still working and can pay rent then none of this should apply to them nor to those landlords either. And I agree with you about Gianaris. in fact all politicians these days are pandering to the voters. There are more renters than there are Landlords. So there’s that explanation as to why he is proposing this as a solution. Again i couldn’t agree with you more.

15
Reply
Kieran

How long b4 this bill will come into effect??RENT WEEK IS HERE ALREADY.Needs to be sooner rather than later for every one that is out of work right now needs the help with rent.

11
25
Reply
Bobby

Totally agree with you.needs to happen now for the people who are sitting at home because of this virus

7
15
Reply

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Op-Ed: This Year’s State Budget Must Prioritize Climate, Jobs, and Justice for New York

Op-Ed, Jan. 30, By Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas

In a time of rampant economic inequality and environmental injustice, it is easy to feel defeated.  Here in Queens and across New York State, however, communities are organizing for a better future. New Yorkers from different backgrounds and with different lived experiences are proving that we can build community, organize, and create a future that reflects our shared values.