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Onondaga County Legislators Urge Tenants And Landlords To Work Together To Take Advantage Of Federal Emergency Rental Assistance

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Onondaga County lawmakers say they’re hearing from tenants and landlords alike who are trying to take advantage of $26 million in federal rental assistance funds. 

We’ve already heard that the county is slowly working through about 5,500 applications, and have distributed about 30 percent of its allocation. Social services officials have said it’s a necessarily thorough process to ensure taxpayer funds are going to eligible renters and landlords. But there’s a significant barrier that threatens to slow down the process.

Legislator Vernon Williams represents a large part of Syracuse, where there’s a high percentage of rental properties. He says to get the relief, both tenants and landlords need to apply together, and that’s proving to be a challenge.

"Tenants are having a hard time trying to find the landlord, or vice versa. Or they don't have a good's not answering the other. What we don't want to see is folks losing their home. This opportunity is here, and we have the money."

Legislator Peggy Chase represents much of the city’s north side.

"There's a lot of money out there. We want it to be put in the right places. We want everybody to have their fair share. But they have to work together, because, if they don't, it's for naught. Neither one of them is going to get anything."

Chase says absentee landlords add another layer to the challenging process.

"That is a big problem. But you know what? Those people who are absentee down in New York City or in other states or out of the country, they want their money,"

So, she says it behooves them to work with tenants on the joint application. Chase and Williams say they’re both working to get the word out about the program, and trying to facilitate the application process.

"We have to make sure our folks the information so they understand that [both sides have to work together]. A lot of folks don't understand that part. They say, 'hey, I put in for it, I'm not getting the money.' 'Did the tenant do it?' 'Well, no.' 'The tenant has to put in for it, too.' 'Oh, I didn't know that.'"

Legislator Chase says both sides bring varying degrees of cooperation to the process.

"The rules are they have to do it together. If they don't do it together, both of them are going to be up the creek."

Lawmakers Tuesday did authorize an agreement with the City of Syracuse to administer $1 million of federal relief funds to expand the population served by emergency rental assistance program.