Tuesday, May 05, 2009

More And More Of The Middle Class Face Eviction In NYC

Unless you've been living in a cave for the last year or two, the fact that times are tough is inescapable. Foreclosures are up, the availability of jobs has plummeted and the economy is in the toilet. So I guess it should come as no surprise that here in New York, tenants are having more trouble keeping up with their rent. The evidence from the city's housing courts undeniably suggests that the middle class is starting to have a serious problem.

From the NYT Cityroom:

Lawyers, judges and tenant advocates say the staggering economy has sent an increasing number of middle-class renters across New York City to the brink of eviction, straining the legal and financial services of city agencies and charities. Suddenly, residents of middle-class havens like Rego Park in Queens and Riverdale in the Bronx are crowding into the city’s already burdened housing courts, long known as poor people’s court.

No one knows exactly how many of those kinds of tenants are facing eviction; the city’s five housing courts, and two smaller community courts that hear similar cases, do not keep data on the income level of litigants. Overall, court records show that the number of cases filed citywide for nonpayment of rent jumped about 19 percent in the first two months of 2009 from the same period last year, to 42,257 from 35,588.
These numbers are sad, but not surprising given how the economy has suffered in the last year. However, the blame cannot be put squarely at the feet of the laid off renter. Rental prices have been skyrocketing in this city for years and the fact is, rentals are too damn high for a large percentage of New Yorkers. True, prices are starting to come down but with so many people spending half their income on rent, when the income disappears the ability to stay in their apartment is quickly cut off.

What we need to do is pull together and pass rental reform in the city and across the state. Whether or not Paterson, Smith and Silver can, or will want to do that is up for debate.