As the pandemic continues to bash the economy, all too many New York City apartment dwellers simply can’t pay the rent.
The result, according to a landlords group said, is that NYC tenants have fallen behind to the tune of more than $1 billion. That’s the amount of debt they owe due to missed rent payments during the pandemic, The Wall Street Journal reported.
A new survey conducted by the Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP), a landlord trade group, focused on apartments under the city’s rent control laws, which includes about half of NYC’s rental units.
CHIP determined that as many as 185,000 households living in these apartments are more than two months behind on rent, with an average debt of more than $6,000.
“It’s not an insurmountable amount,” Jay Martin, CHIP’s executive director, told the WSJ. “The numbers tell us that, probably, if we could get an additional billion, or two, dollars in the city, we could probably pay off every single renter’s arrears in the entire city of New York over the last year of the crisis.”
He added that the total amount of what the city’s renters owe, including those in apartments that aren’t rent-regulated, would probably add up to $2 billion. That would be about twice as much as the apartments that were part of the survey.
Even if the federal government opens up the spigot for rental assistance, there’s the question of who qualifies as “truly needy.” If guidelines are too strict, much of the money will sit around unused as tenants rack up ever higher debts.
Meanwhile, the city’s overall economic situation does not look good. The latest Fiscal Outlook from the New York City Independent Budget Office concludes that the COVID-19 crisis has slammed the city so much that its economy won’t fully recover for years.
According to the report, the beginnings of vaccination drives could lead to a faster turnaround. “This optimism is tempered by the knowledge that the city and the world are still treading in unknown waters, with much about the coming months to be determined by the course of the pandemic.”