The Cuomo Pandemic Scandal No One Is Talking About

“The last two COVID relief bills passed by Congress in December 2020 and March 2021 collectively appropriated $46 billion to cover the massive amount of unpaid rent that tenants have accumulated during the pandemic.

By the end of January 2021, the federal government had released close to $25 billion of that money—including about $1.2 billion to New York state’s ERAP. Subsequent federal grants and state money would fund the program to the tune of $2.7 billion, according to City Limits.

And yet by the end of June, New York had, per U.S. Treasury Department data, managed to spend $0 of its rent relief funds. A month later only $1.2 million had gone out the door.

A major reason for the slow dispersal of funds is that the state’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA)—which is responsible for administering the program—took until June 2021 to start accepting applications. When it did get an online application portal up and running, tenants and landlords were met with crashing websites, and requests for documents they didn’t have.

Applications would take hours to complete, yet the online web portal lacked a feature allowing people to save their progress and try again later. People who called into a hotline to report problems said that staff often had no answers for them.”

“most state governments have done a pretty poor job of getting their rent relief programs off the ground. (The speed at which places like Virginia and Texas have managed to disperse funds shows that success wasn’t impossible.)

Nevertheless, New York has earned the distinction of being the slowest. As of Monday, the state has spent $100 million on rent relief, or about 4 percent of total ERAP funds.”

The Eviction Moratorium Won’t Save Renters — or Landlords

“Too many tenants across the country are living in apartments with unpaid rent piling up, and landlords are facing their second straight year unable to evict people who don’t pay them. The stakes are enormous: a recent study by professors at UCLA and USC estimate that tenants owe $3 billion in back rent in Los Angeles County alone. A recent survey from the Urban Institute noted that a total of 28 percent of landlords have deferred maintenance during the pandemic, the majority citing financial reasons for doing so. Further, 27 percent of tenants reported their maintenance requests were being ignored completely.

In theory, Washington has allocated billions of dollars for rent support for both tenants and the landlords hurt by the moratorium. But in practice that money isn’t going where it needs to go. As of the end of June, only 12 percent of the originally approved $25 billion in rental assistance had reached tenants in need. Still, even if all of the dollars allocated for rental assistance were currently in the hands of renters in need, it still won’t be enough. As Urban Institute researchers concluded that $50 billion is the minimum needed and a CityLab report suggests that it could be over $70 billion.”

“The cleanest solution would be a government-financed loan program that would benefit both tenants and landlords. It needs to be federal. At this point, only Washington has the scale and scope to head off a crisis whose costs have the potential to tick into the tens of billions with far-reaching, long-term impacts on renters. It needs to provide landlords an immediate guarantee of the recovery of a substantial portion of back rent so that the rental market will restabilize. And a loan program, rather than additional rental assistance to tenants or landlords, solves several of the underlying issues: Tenants do owe back rent, and to pretend otherwise could invite moral hazard on a huge scale. It’s politically more viable, in part, because directly footing a future bill that remains unknown would leave American taxpayers with additional Covid debt beyond the direct costs of the pandemic.”

Why I’m skeptical of reparations. Sources.

The Color of Law Richard Rothstein. Liveright Publishing Corporation. 2017. The New Deal Didn’t Create Segregation Richard Walker. 6 18 2019. Jacobin. Dr. Florence Maätita – I.D.E.A. Book Club – The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein Dr. Florence Maätita. 2021

Housing-Starved San Francisco Fines Developer $1.2 Million For Building Too Many Units

“Planning documents show that in 2013 the city granted permission for the construction of five buildings—containing 10 units of housing plus office space and ground-floor retail—on lots that were either vacant or featured a shuttered gas station.

The developers instead ended up building 29 total units without any of the offices or open space they had promised. In addition, the final project lacked some of the promised parking spots and had none of the fancy façade features depicted in the original plans. The new units also lack a second means of egress, which is required for fire safety purposes.

The project received its final certificate of occupancy in 2016. According to the Chronicle, problems with the neighbors began even before construction was finished, as it became clear that the façade going up in their neighborhood did not match the plans approved by the city.

“I saw it go up and I thought, ‘This turd is not what we were promised,'” one neighbor told the Chronicle.

The Planning Department’s website shows several complaints dating back to 2017 about the building’s illegal units, lack of below-market-rate rental units, and absence of promised street trees.”

“The question is what will now happen at the currently occupied apartment complex.

The developers’ attorneys have filed applications to legalize the additional, unapproved units and to add fire escapes on the rear of the building. That will require the city to grant variances for the properties, which are collectively zoned for only 14 units. That’s not guaranteed to happen, so some of the current units may end up getting dismantled and their occupants forced to move elsewhere.”

When Growth Grinds to a Halt

“Two mostly external factors are largely responsible for pressing California’s (and New York’s) population numbers down: the Trump administration’s severe cutbacks on legal immigration (many of which only really got started in 2020 and will stretch on into the future) and the pandemic-triggered spike in telecommuting away from office clusters. Yet local policy choices exacerbate both phenomena. Housing unaffordability is a repellant.

That is one reason Texas is alone in gaining two congressional seats after this census. The Lone Star State and Florida, both of which receive a disproportionate amount of policy scorn from coastal elites, have gone from having essentially the same combined population as California in 1990 (29.9 million vs. 29.8 million) to opening up a commanding lead of 50.7 million to 39.5 million. At 2020 rates, Texas will catch California in population by 2035 or so.”

Antiquated Zoning Laws Are Worsening the Housing Crisis

“California’s median home prices have just topped $800,000, which is astounding when one considers that this is the statewide median, and includes lower-cost markets such as Bakersfield and Modesto.”

“In 2015, the Legislative Analyst’s Office reported that California’s housing prices are 2.5 times the national average—and that we need 100,000 more units a year to keep pace. The state’s slow-growth rules and endless mandates for solar energy and open space also drive up prices. That’s why I beat the same old drum: California needs to let builders construct more housing of all types.
If a proposal reduces government regulations and allows more housing construction, I’m for it. If it does the reverse, I’m against it. That’s why I support efforts to allow the construction of multi-family housing in areas that are now zoned only for single-family homes. Despite the misconception, that change doesn’t ban single-family homes, but also allows duplexes and condos.”

“The goal should be to reduce regulations across the board, so builders can more easily respond to market demand by building whatever consumers want to buy. Defending antiquated zoning laws will not accomplish that objective, for the same reason government control of any product or service only distorts the supply and demand process.

Remember that as you get in a bidding war for that $1-million 800-square-foot condo.”

“Housing discrimination is alive and well”: Watchdog group sues 36 realtors and landlords in New York

““When real estate companies say no to Section 8 tenants, what they’re really saying is you can’t work here, you can’t get food here, and your child can’t go to school here,” Carr said. “Housing discrimination doesn’t just impact one thing — it impacts literally everything.””

Why food and housing assistance is essential for improving America’s health

“There is an underappreciated contributor to the United States’ comparatively poor health: We underinvest in social services that help people live healthier lives and therefore overspend on medical care relative to other developed countries.

The long-term trends in US health care, as I wrote about earlier this week, tell a clear story: Medical outcomes have gotten better, with measures of life expectancy and disease burden improving over the last 25 years, but they haven’t improved as much as they have in other wealthy nations that spend less money on health care than the US.”

“If you combine social services spending with health spending, the US and its peers spend about the same amount of money (a little more than 30 percent of their respective GDPs). But spending in those other countries is weighted more toward social support — food and housing subsidies, income assistance, etc. — whereas America spends more on medical care.”

“Eighteen percent of people in the US live in poverty, compared with 10 percent in other wealthy countries. And we know that people with lower incomes face many structural challenges — lack of access to healthy food, clean water, and fresh air, for starters — that lead to worse health outcomes. When they get sick, they have a harder time both finding a doctor and affording their medical care. In general, they also live with more stress and anxiety than people who make more money, which also has deleterious effects on their health.”

New Treasury Data Shows That the Rollout of Emergency Rent Relief Continues to Be a Hot Mess

“States and localities continue to struggle with getting billions in federal rent relief funds out the door, frustrating both tenants and property owners while fueling demands for continued eviction moratoriums.

On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department released new data showing that as of May 31, recipient jurisdictions have spent only about $1.3 billion, or 6 percent, of the $25 billion in Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) funds approved by Congress in December 2020 to help renters cover rent, rent debt, and utilities.

That federal money was given in the form of grants to states and territories and to local governments with populations over 200,000.
That number obscures a lot of variation between states. Virginia has spent about 30 percent of its ERA award, compared to California’s 2 percent. The pace of spending is also increasing. States and localities spent $774 million in May, compared to the $443 million spent in April, and the $272 million spent from January to March. About 345,000 families have received ERA-funded assistance.

That’s far short of the 1.3 million households who self-report that they’re “very likely” to be evicted in the next two months in Census surveys, reports Politico.”

“The dispersal of funds has faced a number of problems. For starters, most state and local governments have had to set up their own rent relief programs from scratch.”

“Some 60 percent of respondents in a recent survey of ERA administrators said that a lack of staff was preventing them from dispersing rental aid. Another 49 percent said that their technical ability to scale up programs was responsible for the trickle of relief provided thus far.

Nevertheless, housing advocates say that even with these front-end logistical difficulties, ERA grantees should still be managing to spend emergency rental assistance like there’s actually an emergency on.”