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‘Renter’s Choice’ plan aims to keep New York City tenants in homes in COVID-19 crisis

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Two local officials are urging greater protection for New York City tenants as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread citywide.

Brooklyn and Manhattan Borough Presidents Eric Adams and Gale Brewer, respectively, joined New York City Council Housing and Buildings Chair Robert Cornegy Jr. to introduce their plan to help New Yorkers cover rent payments for the month of April.

Called the Renter’s Choice plan, the new plan would require NYC landlords to offer every renter the option of applying their cash security deposit directly towards next month’s rent, unlocking around $8 billion of savings tied up in cash security deposits. 

“We know that coronavirus is impacting our businesses, and it’s hitting our renters as well,” said Adams. “The call is for the return of rent security to tenants to stabilize the trauma of coronavirus so they can buy what they need.”

The Renter’s Choice plan aims to ensure landlords are made whole on next month’s rent due and do not fall behind on any of their liabilities. Renters who opt-in to the rent relief program will have 30 days to replace the security deposit but, through this plan, will now be given the option to replace their cash deposit with low-cost insurance for just a few dollars a month – keeping critical savings in renter’s pockets.

Money that is unlocked from escrow can later be paid back by the tenant themselves or through the new insurance programs that have been established.

“This is money that’s been tied up that landlords and tenants can’t touch,” said Ankur Jain, CEO of Kairos. “This would give renters the option to put this money towards next month’s rent. They won’t have to worry about falling behind on rent payments. Right now more than ever, people need this kind of relief.”

In addition to helping renters, Borough President Adams believes that giving this money back to renters can help boost the local economy.

“We need that money for our community and for our businesses,” said Adams. “We believe this is something that could be used to put energy and resources back into our city.”

If the group can secure support from the Mayor and fellow Council members, this plan can be put into effect as soon as the end of this week. If scaled nationally, this plan will be a $45 billion stimulus into American pockets.

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