The pandemic program to help struggling households pay their rent faltered at the start, with New York being the last state in the country to distribute funds. Improvements, including those suggested by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli at the onset of the program, were made that alleviated many of the administrative and application problems hampering it, but renters living in public housing have not yet received funds from it and rental burdens for low-income New Yorkers remain high, according to a report from DiNapoli released today.
As of May 2023, the federal- and state-funded Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) distributed nearly $3.1 billion to approximately 250,000 applicants statewide. New York City’s residents received most of the funding (81.2%), followed by residents in Suffolk County (2.9%), Westchester County (2.7%) and Erie County (2.5%). For most eligible households, ERAP covered up to 12 months of back rent, utility bills and some future rent payments. It also prohibited evictions for up to a year and waived late fees.
“The Emergency Rental Assistance Program got off to a slow start in New York, at a time of great urgency,” DiNapoli said. “Two years later, funds have flowed to many of the households in need. Still, rent burdens continue to plague many amid relatively high inflation and housing costs. Officials must continue to prioritize keeping people in their homes and avoiding evictions as New York City manages its record-level shelter population and localities across the state deal with a housing affordability crisis and rising eviction actions. An added $356 million in funding from the state will help those who live in public housing and still waiting for assistance.”
The city chose to participate in the state-run ERAP program, and its residents received far more than the $645 million they would have received if the city chose to run its own program. New York City received $2.5 billion for the ERAP program, a quarter of which went to Brooklyn, the most for any county in the state. The funds have assisted about 190,000 households citywide as of June 2023.
DiNapoli’s report noted that as of May 2023, rental households in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) units had not received any funding from ERAP as they were given low priority in legislation authorizing the program. DiNapoli found that city ZIP codes with NYCHA housing represented 78.9% of unpaid ERAP requests in the city.
The program closed to new applications in January 2023. The state’s enacted budget includes $356 million for households with existing ERAP applications that had not yet received funding. NYCHA is expected to receive $128 million of those funds. The state has also committed an additional $35 million for rental arrears earmarked for NYCHA, though the amount falls short of recent estimates of need.
DiNapoli’s report notes that in 2021, rent rose in all five boroughs, with Manhattan having the largest increase in median asking rent of 25.2% for advertised apartments, after a decline in 2020. The high rents continued in 2022 and between December 2022 and May 2023, all boroughs experienced a median rent increase of at least 5% (the Bronx experienced the highest increase of over 11%). Residential rents for rent-stabilized units are also set to increase in the coming years.
Unpaid rent remains a major issue, as the number of non-payment court cases in the city reached 89,046 in 2022 (up 169.1% from 2021), and wage growth has slowed from its robust pace during the beginning of 2022. A growing number of struggling households have been accessing other forms of emergency assistance for rent, energy or utility bills, and food assistance. Demand for existing public assistance programs such as the CityFHEPS rental assistance program may also continue to remain elevated, impacting city and state budgets. These increased demands highlight the importance of continued analysis of ERAP applicants and their rent burden to inform future policy and program decisions.
New York State Rent Relief Funding: Spotlight on New York City