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Local rent relief ramping up as eviction moratorium set to expire

For Rent sign in front of a house.
Mark Moz
For Rent sign in front of a house.

While New York state struggles to roll out its emergency rental assistance, Onondaga County officials predict their separate rental relief program should get checks out to all approved landlords within the next four to eight weeks.

The county has distributed $3.8 million of the $28 million set aside for emergency rental assistance as of August 6. On average, the roughly 500 households that have received funds have gotten about $5,500 per household.

While this has been a tremendous help for struggling residents, the county's program only covers households with up to 80% median income, leaving a gap that the city of Syracuse is hoping to fill.

“There is a group of people that are in need and have been unable to qualify for emergency rental assistance and that's those that make between 81 to 100% of the area median income,” said Michael Collins, the Neighborhood and Business Development Coordinator for Syracuse.

Collins and Mayor Ben Walsh have proposed contributing $1 million of the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funding to the county’s existing $28 million rental relief program.

The decision is still being considered by the Common Council. However, Councilor-at-large, Khalid Bey, said he’s afraid of landlords double-dipping.

“How do we know that a landlord has not already received relief from this county, state, or fed, and then we're giving relief to a tenant,” said Bey. “We have to make sure that that we're keeping an eye on that and that we're not being redundant with our spending.”

County officials did confirm that if the city contributes funds, that money will go directly to Syracuse landlords only.

Bey, who is the democratic candidate for Syracuse Mayor, has emphasized the importance of housing in his mayoral campaign–saying quality housing means quality neighborhoods. Collins agrees.

“It was our intent to make sure that this money has the greatest impact,” said Collins. “One of the ways to do that is to make sure that people are stable within their homes and that landlords are able to maintain their properties.”

While $1 million is only a fraction of Syracuse’s American Rescue Plan funding, Collins said he expects it to go a long way because it’ll be helping an income bracket that’s probably not as behind in rent, which means the funding can be divided up between more residents.

“We believe we can actually make a pretty significant difference with a million dollars in the number of households that we would be able to support and therefore the number of landlords that are able to receive the back rent,” said Collins.

The Common Council tabled the proposal last week, but as the end of the eviction moratorium nears, the pressure is on for a decision to be made.

You can apply for rental assistance through Onondaga County here.

Madison Ruffo received a Master’s Degree from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in audio and health/science reporting. Madison has extensively covered the environment, local politics, public health, and business. When she’s not reporting, you can find Madison reading, hiking, and spending time with her family and friends.