Housing In Brief: Mississippi’s Governor Is Leaving Eviction Prevention Funds On The Table

Also, NYC could offer nonprofits first bid for public land.

Mississippi State Capitol (Photo by Tony Webster / CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Mississippi Governor Will Send Back Unspent Housing Funds

Gov. Tate Reeves announced he would be ending the Rental Assistance for Mississippians Program, which funneled federal rental assistance to people in need. But $130 million remains unspent and 17,000 applications are still processing as of July 31, Common Dreams reports. The state stopped taking applications on Tuesday.

Governor Reeves claimed that the program was disincentivizing people from working. He simultaneously boasted that the state’s unemployment rate decreased since the program began disbursing funds. According to the agency administering the program, a majority of applicants were employed, though nearly 70% were earning less than the area median income, NBC News reports. Median rents in Mississippi have increased over 35% since January 2021 according to Zillow data.

The unspent funds will be returned to the U.S. Treasury and will be allocated to another state with housing needs, the treasury’s chief recovery officer told NBC News.

NYC Bill Allows Nonprofits First Bid At Public Land

A councilmember in New York City introduced a bill last week that would allow nonprofits the first chance at buying publicly-owned land before selling it to private developers, City Limits reports. The bill, which has 20 co-sponsors in the 51-member city council, would ban the mayor from selling off city-owned property for “public use” without first allowing a qualified nonprofit or community land trust to bid. The legislation needs 26 votes to pass the city council, so it has a chance if a few more members come on board and the mayor does not veto it. The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) signaled they are open to the legislation in comments to City Limits, telling the outlet, “this administration is laser-focused on making New York an affordable place to live, and supporting our non-profit partners in the process.”

A related bill giving nonprofits first opportunity to purchase private properties that go up for sale was introduced by councilmember Carlina Rivera in 2020 and again this year. San Francisco has a similar Community Opportunity to Purchase Act giving nonprofits the first offer when residential buildings go up for sale. A Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, which allows groups of renters first bid of private properties they live in, has existed in D.C. since 1980.

New Jersey Tenant Protections For Elderly and Disabled People

A bill introduced in the New Jersey state legislature would extend protections for tenants who are senior citizens and disabled tenants, New Jersey Monitor reports. Previously, the law allowed elderly and disabled tenants whose housing was being converted to a co-op or condo to remain in their homes for 40 years. Those protections have been extended to the lifetime of the tenant.

Seniors are increasingly facing the threat of homelessness, many of whom found themselves out of work following a disabling event. Few jurisdictions - if any - ban evictions of elderly people outright, though some offer narrow protections. In New York City, eldery or disabled tenants can apply to have their rent frozen, but coverage under those programs is limited.

In addition to the aforementioned law, another recently-introduced New Jersey bill would define a landlord as anyone renting a unit for 30 days or longer and require they give tenants receipts upon rent payment. Advocates say this will include more small and informal landlords in the city’s rent laws and offer protection to their tenants.

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our weekly Backyard newsletter.

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Roshan Abraham is Next City's housing correspondent and a former Equitable Cities fellow. He is based in Queens. Follow him on Twitter at @roshantone.

Tags: renters rights

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