City Council Speaker Airs Concerns Over Canceling Rent

On May 14, when asked about canceling rent on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer show, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson called for federal financial assistance to help struggling residents pay their rent. He noted that a cancellation of rent could further disrupt the city’s budget, which is in crisis.

“I think it’s important that we talk about the entire pipeline here—the entire food chain of how this works,” Johnson stated. “There are many landlords that use those rent payments to be able to pay their property taxes and real estate taxes or make their mortgage payments on their buildings.” If property tax payments can't be made, the city would be in a much worse financial position.

According to Johnson, $30 billion of the city’s now $89.3 billion budget comes from property tax payments. “We have to think about these things holistically because we can’t be in a situation where people are not able to pay their property taxes, which then devastates the city’s budget even more,” he said.

Johnson has stated since the interview that he still supports rent relief through cancellation but has made it clear that the only way to do that is to get federal money.

Johnson is sponsoring a bill that proposes up to a year-long pause on evictions for New Yorkers impacted by COVID-19. Under the bill, city marshals and sheriffs would be barred from claiming and restoring property or executing money judgments, usually the amount of back rent owed, during the pandemic. The legislation would also prevent city officials from collecting debts and carrying out evictions on New Yorkers impacted by COVID-19 until April 2021. The measure is intended as a stopgap solution for renters until the state and federal government can provide greater relief.