But even by those standards, Wednesday’s meeting was a surreal scene. It was held virtually for the second year in a row, and the two board members who represent tenants attended from a rally, joined by tenants and housing groups. Immediately after the vote, chants from the rally drowned out the voice of David Reiss, the chairman of the board of directors; then the representatives’ microphones seemed to be cut off.
A slim majority of New York City renters pay market-based rents, which are still among the highest in the United States even after asking that rents for these units have fallen to their lowest level in 10 years during the pandemic.
Esteban Giron, who lives in Crown Heights with her husband, said they pay around 30% of their monthly income for rent. Now he’s closer to 75 percent after her husband lost his job during the pandemic.
“It will be a long comeback for families like mine,” Mr. Giron, a tenant advocate, told members of the Rent Guidelines Committee at a public hearing last week. “The board should stop harboring the idea that this is in any way an even or balanced fight here.”
The vote took place during a momentous period for tenants, not only in New York City, but across the country. On Wednesday, the federal government announced it would extend the moratorium on evictions imposed during the pandemic, which were due to expire this month. They would now expire in July, while a moratorium put in place by New York State ends in August.
While most evictions are stayed, landlords can still file eviction cases in the New York City Housing Court. Since the start of the pandemic, they have filed more than 57,000 cases, according to the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. But these cases, which can only continue after the moratorium is lifted, could take several months, or even years, to be heard before a judge.
This month, New York State also started accepting applications for tenants to receive rent relief of $ 2.7 billion funded largely by the federal government. Tenants can receive up to one year of past due rent and one year of utility arrears. About 110,000 completed applications statewide have been submitted so far, according to the state’s Office of Temporary Help and Persons with Disabilities, which oversees the assistance program.