Survey shows New York City tenants owe billions of dollars in back rent

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — A new survey released Friday showed renters in New York City owed billions of dollars in back rent amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Community Housing Improvement Program conducted the study showing that people living in rent stabilized units throughout the five boroughs have accumulated over $1 billion in back rent since the start of the pandemic.

“That equals out to about two-and-a-half to three-months-worth of rent owed, per owner,” says the group’s executive director, Jay Martin.

However, Martin says their survey doesn’t show the full picture since it does not include the rent that has not been paid in units that are not stabilized. He suspects factoring that number in would amount to billions more in unpaid rent.

“It was a 300% increase from the year prior,” he explains.

Martin, whose group represents landlords, says unpaid rent puts property owners in a difficult spot, but they typically want to work with their current renters, rather than move to evict.

“No owner is in a position where they want to evict tenants, frankly, in this environment,” Martin said. “They want to work with the existing tenants in place to, frankly, get as much rent income as they can.”

He says a solution now would be more federal funding.

“The renters have accumulated much for debt. The property owner has gone many more months without rental income to pay their own bills and we just exacerbated the problem without trying to solve any of the actual financial impacts of the crisis itself,” he said.

The recent COVID-19 stimulus allocated $1.3 billion in rental assistance to New York State but, how much of that will go to the city is not clear.

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