The statehouse in Trenton
By Joshua Burd
As the eviction moratorium winds down in the state, the New Jersey Apartment Association is urging Trenton to pick up the pace of sending out long-awaited rental assistance payments.
David Brogan, the association’s executive director, said as much Friday after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively ended the ban at the federal level. He noted that the high court’s decision “was not surprising … (and) has a minimal impact on New Jersey,” where Gov. Phil Murphy recently signed a bill to phase out the state’s own moratorium while providing relief to both renters and landlords, who are facing dual financial crises as a result of the pandemic.
Much of that relief will come in the form of some $500 million in federal funds that the state would distribute under the new law, which follows around $600 million of previously allocated payments. Yet Brogan said “the glacial pace in the disbursement of rental assistance is placing added strain on both landlords and tenants.”
“Additionally, the expectation that landlords can continue to meet their financial obligations without rent revenue is completely unreasonable,” he said. “Rent revenue is the lifeblood of the multifamily ecosystem, and government cannot expect private sector landlords to continue to provide housing for free. Government policies that inhibit or eliminate rent revenue, or allow for the exploitation of eviction moratoria, are not the answer to our housing problems.
“Furthermore, continued inaction or delays by government to distribute emergency rental assistance to both landlords and tenants in need will lead many small landlords to sell their properties and dissuade others from ever becoming landlords — further exacerbating the housing crisis in our state.”
Brogan’s statement came a day after the Supreme Court invalidated the Centers for Disease Control’s recent extension of the federal moratorium. The CDC took that action on Aug. 3, pushing back of the expiration of the eviction ban to early October, prompting immediate legal challenges and questions over whether it would hold up in court.
The following day, Murphy enacted the legislation that would wind down the moratorium in New Jersey. The measure, whose passage was spearheaded by state Sen. Brian Stack, provides a host of protections to apartment renters and legal remedies for landlords, while ending the eviction ban on Aug. 31 for those who earn above 80 percent of the area median income.
Those below that threshold would receive another four months of protections.
Even so, the NJAA and other industry advocates that supported the bill called on the state Department of Community Affairs to “provide this assistance as efficiently and effectively as possible,” following concerns over earlier rounds of rental relief payments. On Friday, Brogan reiterated those calls.
“It is time for government view landlords as partners, not as enemies, and it is imperative that government view our housing policy more holistically, rather than picking winners and losers,” he said. “Government must step up and do more to help landlords and they must do so without further delay. If not, the ramifications of such inaction will not only negatively impact our housing ecosystem today, but for decades to come.”