COVID-19 Tenant Survey

About this Project

In June 2021, Albany Cities RISE program staff initiated an informal survey project intending to gauge COVID-19 impacts and community needs among landlords and tenants. Data collection continued throughout the summer and fall of 2021. The following report reflects the tenant portion of the survey. 

REPORT: COVID-19 Albany Tenant Survey

Published on January 7, 2022

Survey Demographics


Of the 147 tenants who responded to this survey, 63.3% identified as female; 25.9% identified as male, and 6.1% identified as non-binary. One participant identified as Two-Spirit (0.7%), and one identified as a trans man (0.7%). 3.4% of participants declined to state their gender.

Race & Ethnicity

The majority of respondents identified as white (61.9%). 20.4% of tenants identified as Black or African American, and 8.2% of participants identified as Hispanic/Latinx. 4.8% of respondents identified as Asian or Asian American, while 2.0% of tenants identified as Native American. An additional 2.0% of participants identified as belonging to some other racial or ethnic group. Nine participants (6.1%) declined to state their race or ethnicity.

Duration of Current Tenancy

The average move-in date of survey respondents was mid-2017, meaning that the average length of tenancy was approximately 4-4.5 years. The median move-in date of tenants who responded to the survey was 2019, putting the median length of tenancy at 2.5-3 years

Table 1: Move-In Dates of Tenant Survey Respondents - Albany, NY, 2021

Move-In Date
% of Respondents
Prior to 2015


The vast majority of survey respondents were from the City of Albany, with City residents making up 94.4% of all participants. Other locations represented in this sample include Colonie (2.1%), Cohoes (1.4%), Clifton Park (0.7%), Watervliet (0.7%), and New York City (0.7%). 

Table 2: Tenant Survey Respondents by Zip Code - Albany, NY, 2021

Zip CodeNeighborhoods# of Respondents% of Sample
12210Arbor Hill, Sheridan Hollow, Ten Broeck Triangle, 
Center Square, Hudson Park
12208Pine Hills, Helderberg, Buckingham Lake,2921.8%
12203Washington Park, Upper Washington, Melrose, 
Campus Area, The Dunes
12202South End, Mansion Area, Second Avenue, 
Hudson Park, Lincoln Park
12206West Hill, West End, Beverwyck, Upper Washington118.3%
12209Delaware Area, Whitehall, Normanskill, Delso96.8%
12207Downtown, Historic Pastures, Mansion Area86.0%
12204North Albany, Warehouse District, Shaker - 
Bishop's Gate, Menands
All City Residents133100.0%

Housing Stability

Landlord-Tenant Relationships

An alarming number of tenants reported that their relationships with their landlords had deteriorated, with 30.1% of respondents observing a noticeably-worsened situation. On average, the quality of these relationships decreased by 0.27 points on a five-point scale (with one representing a poor relationship and five representing an excellent one). Among tenants who were behind on rent, their mean landlord-tenant relationship score was 2.50. This was lower than the average score among tenants who did not owe arrears, with an average rating of 2.97 on the same scale. This indicates that there may be a financial component to the widely-reported decrease in the quality of landlord-tenant relationships during the pandemic. Furthermore, tenants who were facing eviction reported a mean landlord-tenant relationship score of 2.33, vs. 3.09 for tenants who were not facing eviction.

"My former landlord assaulted...and harassed me...I’m in a much better situation now, and I’m endlessly thankful I was able to secure clean, safe, and affordable housing (which is rare in Albany)."

Table 3: Albany Landlord-Tenant Relationship Quality Ratings by Tenant Race/Ethnicity, Pre-Pandemic vs. Present 

Tenant Race/Ethnicity% Rating Landlord-Tenant Relationship as Neutral or Better
Asian / Asian American66.7%85.7%
Black / African American68.8%68.8%
Hispanic / Latinx69.2%53.8%
Native Americaninsufficient datainsufficient data
All Participants75.7%66.2%

Table 4: Albany Landlord-Tenant Relationship Quality Ratings by Tenant Zip Code, Pre-Pandemic vs. Present

Tenant Zip Code% Rating Landlord-Tenant Relationship as Neutral or Better
12204insufficient datainsufficient data

A small but substantial group of renters reported experiencing some form of harassment from their landlord, for various reasons. In total, at least 20% of respondents claimed to have been harassed by a landlord. 

Eviction Risk

6.2% of participants stated that they had had an eviction case filed against them during the pandemic. This figure is lower than the total number of Albany renters facing eviction for any reason since March 1, 2020: more than 2,200 tenant households, or an estimated 4,642 residents (approximately 1 in 5 renters). It is also possible that some tenants did not realize there was an eviction case pending against them, or that they simply moved out upon receiving court papers. 1.3% of respondents were unsure of whether an eviction had been filed against them.

A considerable number of tenants (15.5%) reported having experienced some form of illegal eviction attempt by their landlord. Methods of unlawful eviction cited by participants included: harassment or making threats to coerce the tenant into moving out (n = 7), tampering with the tenant’s mail (n = 4), removing the tenant’s belongings from the unit (n = 3), changing the locks without providing the tenant with a key (n = 2), removing doors or locks (n =  2), and making false reports about the tenant to law enforcement (n = 2). At least two tenants had reportedly been physically assaulted by their landlords. 

Figure 1: Types of Illegal Eviction Attempts Experienced by Albany Tenants, 2021Unlawful Eviction Attempts Experienced by Albany Tenants (2)

This data on illegal evictions was not surprising, given that more than 225 residents have been impacted by illegal eviction attempts (reported to the City of Albany) since 2020. Due to the statewide eviction moratorium, a steadily-increasing number of landlords have resorted to "self-help evictions" in order to regain possession of their units. 

Future Housing Plans

Just over half of tenants of tenants (54.5%) expressed having plans to stay at their current residence. 15.2% of tenants were unsure of their future housing plans, while an additional 4.8% reported they were facing eviction in the next few months. Three tenants (2.1%) were in the process of buying a home.

Nearly a quarter of tenants stated that they planned to move within the coming months (23.4%), further highlighting the housing instability that many Albany tenants are facing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reasons cited by tenants for moving included lease non-renewal, sale of the property, landlord harassment, and code violations. Some residents expressed a desire to relocate but stated that they were having difficulties in finding a suitable residence due to apartment shortages and inflated housing costs. 

Figure 2: Future Housing Plans of Albany Tenants, 2021Future Housing Plans of Albany Tenants, Next Few Months (1)

Housing Quality

Deferred Maintenance

The impact of landlords deferring maintenance on their properties due to the pandemic has been felt strongly by Albany tenants. Participants in this survey cited a significant decrease in their landlord’s ability and/or willingness to maintain their units, with 35.4% of respondents stating that repairs were less likely to be taken care of now than they were prior to the pandemic. Maintenance issues had also contributed to deteriorating landlord-tenant relationships: some tenants became frustrated by the lack of repairs and decided to withhold rent.

"The basement ceiling has been falling in since the summer. Every time it rains, it’s like it’s raining inside. The black mold in the basement makes me concerned and [my landlord] refuses to respond to my inquires about when it will be fixed."

Table 5: Sufficiency of Landlord's Maintenance Practices in Albany by Tenant Race/Ethnicity, Pre-Pandemic vs. Present  

Tenant Race/Ethnicity% Rating Landlord's Maintenance Practices as Neutral or Better
Asian / Asian American66.7%57.1%
Black / African American68.8%51.6%
Hispanic / Latinx53.8%61.5%
Native Americaninsufficient datainsufficient data
All Participants68.3%60.4%

Table 6: Sufficiency of Landlord's Maintenance Practices in Albany by Tenant Zip Code, Pre-Pandemic vs. Present  

Tenant Zip Code% Rating Landlord's Maintenance Practices as Neutral or Better
12204insufficient datainsufficient data

Housing Affordability

Housing Cost Burden

Across the board, tenants felt that their housing was less affordable to them presently than it had been prior to the pandemic, with 38.7% of respondents experiencing a decrease in housing affordability. While 80.8% of Albany renters surveyed felt that they could reliably afford their housing pre-COVID, this number dropped to 57.5% after the pandemic had taken hold.

Table 7: Housing Affordability in Albany by Tenant Race/Ethnicity, Pre-Pandemic vs. Present

Tenant Race/Ethnicity% Feel Housing Is/Was Affordable
Asian / Asian American83.3%28.6%
Black / African American74.2%56.3%
Hispanic / Latinx53.8%38.5%
Native Americaninsufficient datainsufficient data
All Participants80.1%55.5%

Table 8: Housing Affordability in Albany by Tenant Zip Code, Pre-Pandemic vs. Present 

Tenant Zip Code% Feel Housing Is/Was Affordable
12204insufficient datainsufficient data

"Rent has increased at rapid rates, yet the quality of housing has gone down, and landlords haven't been maintaining buildings...there is an unequal balance of power, knowledge, money, and resources [between landlords and tenants]."

Further research into average rents in Albany prior to and during the pandemic has shown a noticeable increase in housing costs. Widespread inflation, stagnant wages, and the end of pandemic unemployment benefits may also have contributed to renters’ perceptions of decreased housing affordability.

Rental Arrears

Only 19.3% of tenants reported owing rental arrears at the time of survey completion. Of the twenty-eight survey respondents who reported having rental arrears, only one expressed that they had no intentions of paying back the rent they owed to their landlords. In fact, 71.4% indicated they did intend to repay the arrears, while 39.3% stated that they were unsure of whether they would or could repay their landlords. One of the factors impacting residents’ ability to repay rental arrears could be the lack of available resources to assist landlords and tenants financially. The impacts of these programs on Albany residents will be discussed in the next section. 

"My landlord has started to harass my boss about rent."

The figures mentioned above seem to be at odds with landlord perceptions that a large number of tenants are deliberately "taking advantage" of the New York State eviction moratorium. To the contrary, the majority of tenants who owe back rent have plans to pay back their arrears, while others hope to do so if they are able. The fact that so many tenants have fallen so far behind may be more of a reflection of the impact of the pandemic, and rising rents in Albany, than anything else. Indeed, Albany tenants are being evicted for ever-increasing amounts since 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic first began to spread in our region. 

Figure 3: Non-Payment Eviction Rental Arrears vs. Average Housing CostsAverage Eviction Filing Arrears vs. Average Monthly Rents, 2016-2021

Rental Assistance Programs

A small minority of tenants (14.9%) reported receiving any form of rental assistance during the pandemic, while the majority (85.1%) reported receiving no rental assistance. The most common type of assistance among participants was help from a relative or friend (54.5% of tenants receiving assistance; 8.1% of all participants), followed by Section 8 (22.7% of tenants receiving assistance; 3.4% of all participants). Other reported types of assistance included assistance from an agency (13.6% of tenants receiving assistance; 2.0% of all respondents), the New York State Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP; n = 2; 9.1% of tenants receiving assistance; 1.4% of all participants), and assistance from the Albany County Department of Social Services (DSS; 4.5% of tenants receiving assistance; 0.7% of all participants). 

"Right now I am unemployed. If I don't get ERAP, I could lose my apartment."

It is possible that the actual percentage of Albany tenants who received assistance during the pandemic is higher than the figures reported above. This hypothesis is supported by program data (see Table 9)from the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. The City of Albany’s COVID-19 Tenant Survey began accepting responses shortly after the New York State Emergency Rental Assistance Program was rolled out; subsequently, some tenants may not yet have applied at the time of survey completion. In addition, because there were significant delays in application processing times, it is also possible that some tenants who reported receiving no assistance would later be accepted for ERAP funding. 

"My landlord [refuses] to submit his portion of the ERAP application...I already submitted mine and [have] been approved."

Table 9: Emergency Rental Assistance Program Utilization by Zip Code

Zip Code# of ERAP Applications% of Tenants Applied
Citywide2,881 applications11.2% of tenants

 * A smaller part of 12204 lies in the Village of Menands


The results of this survey have demonstrated that Albany tenants are increasingly vulnerable when it comes to housing stability. As tenants and landlords alike grapple with the economic fallout of the pandemic, affordable housing slips further out of reach. Furthermore, COVID-19 has contributed to a deterioration of Albany's already-aging housing stock, making safe, quality units more scarce. The deterioration of landlord-tenant relationships has led to many property owners changing their rental practices, making it more difficult for renters to secure housing. In the coming weeks, the statewide eviction moratorium will expire, putting many more households at risk for eviction.