How to Navigate NYC Housing During Coronavirus

Written by JustFix.nyc
Updated 08/26/2020

Despite the lockdowns and work from home orders instituted around the world as a result of COVID-19, New Yorkers must still make choices about how to navigate daily life during the health crisis.

Navigating NYC housing during coronavirus is one such activity, and was notorious for being a stressful process even before the pandemic. This guide from JustFix.nyc will answer your questions about looking for housing as well as moving in NYC safely under the city’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Please be advised that JustFix.nyc is not a public health authority. Those seeking medical information or assistance should contact a medical professional and review resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO),  and the NYC Health Department.

Moving during COVID-19: How to safely find housing in NYC

While it’s encouraged to find ways to stay where you are and negotiate lease extensions with landlords where possible (note that NYC’s eviction moratorium remains in effect), many New Yorkers may still be in situations where they need to find new housing while coronavirus concerns persist.

When New York State went “on pause” in March 2020, real estate was not included in the “essential services” that were able to continue in-person work, and moved to remote operations. However as of June 22, New York City entered Phase 2 of reopening, which included real estate and has allowed offices and brokers to restart or expand work. Despite this change the threats of COVID-19 have not dissipated—our partners at Landlord Watch have gathered priority information about the ways in which the NYC housing market has adjusted for increased safety.

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Touring apartments safely during COVID‑19

Since the pandemic began, the popular real estate app Street Easy has continued to post new listings, as have many other apartment listing sites. However, showings moved to virtual-only, and many tenants, landlords, and brokers continue to operate this way while health risks remain. Note that Zillow also has an app for 3D virtual home tours.

Real estate brokers are now allowed to conduct in-person showings, but Landlord Watch has received some reports that brokers conducting “safe” in-person tours have not respected safety measures such as social distancing or mask-wearing, or have attempted to large upfront fees before agreeing to show spaces. You can report any such experiences to Landlord Watch using their Housing + Vouchers + COVID-19 reporting tool (and remain anonymous, if desired!).

Reporting landlord discrimination 

If you’re still in the midst of your apartment search, you can use Landlord Watch to record your calls with landlords and brokers and document any instances for discrimination. Get started with Landlord Watch by texting “hi” to (503) 300-6454.

Movers to use during COVID-19

Moving services have remained available throughout the pandemic as “essential services.” Curbed NY offers more information about moving options during COVID-19, as well as recommended ways to negotiate with landlords to avoid or delay unnecessary moves as much as possible.

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Applying for affordable housing during coronavirus

New York City has launched a new version of NYC Housing Connect through which New Yorkers can apply for affordable housing. COVID-19 has impacted individual housing programs and services in different ways—for those dealing specifically with Section 8 housing, note that the NYC Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) Section 8 Customer Service Office has been closed since March 16. However, any HPD Section 8 voucher set to expire during this time will be automatically renewed, without any contact needed from the voucher holder. 

All eligibility interviews for Section 8 tenants in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings will be held over the phone. 

All subsidy terminations and non-emergency inspections have been suspended until further notice. For more information, review NYC’s HPD service updates page.

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Stay Up to Date with Information from our Partners

For more information on housing updates and changes during COVID-19, review our eviction moratorium and rent freeze FAQs, as well as the vital information and resources below from our housing justice partner organizations.

Landlord Watch COVID-19 Response

The team at Landlord Watch has compiled up-to-date reports for those looking for apartments in NYC and using the voucher system as the city works to contain the spread of the virus.

Right to Counsel NYC Coalition

The Right to Counsel NYC Coalition is a tenant-led, broad-based coalition that formed in 2014 to disrupt Housing Court as a center of displacement and stop the eviction crisis that has threatened NYC families, neighborhoods and homes for too long. Important COVID-19 resources include: 

Metropolitan Council on Housing

The Metropolitan Council on Housing is a tenants’ rights membership organization made up of New York City tenants who organize tenants to stand up not only for their individual rights, but also for changes to our housing policies.

Housing Court Answers Hotline

Housing Court Answers is an organization that educates and empowers tenants and small homeowners without lawyers to navigate and represent themselves in housing court. Their free hotline, (212) 962-4795, is open Monday-Friday from 9:00AM to 5:00PM. Representatives can answer questions on a variety of topics including housing law, rent arrears assistance, general housing court questions, and homelessness prevention, and have interpreters available for any language you may speak.

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