Landlords are also facing considerable debts. A survey in January that represented approximately 40,000 rental-controlled units in New York City estimated that tenants in rental-controlled homes owed arrears of $ 1.1 billion, according to the Community Housing Improvement Program, a group that represents landlords. That debt has dropped to around $ 700 million, said Michael Johnson, a group spokesman, in part due to renters repaying rent, but it could also reflect at least some of that debt, which is simply absorbed by the owners.
While $ 2.4 billion has been set aside for an emergency aid program first announced in New York State in December, no applications have been made, said Barika Williams, executive director of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, a coalition of nonprofit housing associations. (A state website promoting the program now says applications will open on June 1st.)
"As a city, we cannot allow entire neighborhoods, especially color communities, to be flooded by the impending evacuation tsunami, and we think that this is good public policy," she said.
For 38-year-old Ana Galvez, who has long lived in a six-story building in the Melrose section of the Bronx, last year was the first time in a decade that she was unable to make up on rent payments.
Ms. Galvez lost her job in the kitchen of a Brooklyn restaurant as the pandemic started in February 2020. She supports two daughters, a 9-year-old in New York and a 19-year-old in Mexico, whom she has not seen since she left 15 years ago.
There have been times over the years when she has lagged behind on rent, but she has always caught up, Ms. Galvez said through a translator at CASA, a tenants' agency. But after losing her job, she hasn't paid the $ 1,775 rent for her two-bedroom apartment since March 2020, a debt that could exceed $ 25,000 after other fees.
She is not entitled to unemployment benefit because she was paid in cash. That's why she has relied on food banks and started selling tamales and fruit in the neighborhood from a shopping cart that she hauls up and down the stairs of her building.