Give NYCHA a Fair Share of Pandemic Rent Aid, City Congressional Reps Plead

For months, Mayor Eric Adams and the New York City Housing Authority have been pressing the Biden administration to deliver pandemic-related eviction protection funds to help tenants in the city’s public housing system cover more than half a billion dollars in unpaid rent. 

For months, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) has said no, declining to tap into $5 billion in homelessness and eviction protection funds called HOME-ARP under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) enacted in response to COVID-19.

On Friday five Democratic members of New York City’s congressional delegation — Reps. Adriano Espaillat, Dan Goldman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jerrold Nadler and Ritchie Torres — stepped into the fray, demanding that HUD provide the much-needed money to the financially on-the-brink Housing Authority.

“Despite the urgent and unmistakable need for federal assistance, HUD has been reluctant to grant NYCHA the approval it needs to access HOME-ARP funds for NYC,” the representatives wrote to HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge. “We have trouble understanding the reasons for HUD’s reluctance.”

The letter notes that Adams and his Department of Housing Preservation and Development have “affirmed that tenant-based rental assistance for NYCHA tenants ought to be the highest priority for HOME-ARP funds in NYC. The will of NYC’s local government has fallen on deaf ears.”

In effect, they argued that HUD is in effect discriminating against public housing residents by not providing them with the same assistance they have provided to thousands of private sector renters who the federal government decided were “at risk of homelessness” or “otherwise vulnerable.”

“There is no language in HOME-ARP’s underlying statute that justifies denying public housing tenants the same access to tenant-based rental assistance that has been made available to private housing tenants,” they wrote. “What we are seeking from HUD is not special treatment but equal treatment of public housing residents under the HOME-ARP program which was designed to assist every type of tenant in need.”

HUD officials did not respond to questions submitted by THE CITY Friday.

The $5 billion program known as HOME-ARP is meant to assist “individuals or households who are homelessness, at risk for homelessness or otherwise vulnerable” by providing tenant-based rental assistance.

NYCHA’s argument is that the tenants who are so far behind in their rent will ultimately face eviction and could soon end up homeless.

Month after month, the amount of back rent owed by New York City public housing tenants who fell behind in their payments during the pandemic and never recovered has increased, hitting $527 million by the end of last month.

Read More: Give NYCHA a Fair Share of Pandemic Rent Aid, City Congressional Reps Plead

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