Despite a last-ditch plea by housing advocates this week, statewide "good cause" eviction legislation never made it to a vote during the year's legislative session.
On Tuesday, activists in the gallery of the Assembly threw pro-Good Cause fliers onto the chamber floor while yelling, "Good Cause now," and reading a tenant testimonial, according to a video by Housing Justice For All Coalition.
Outside the chambers, more than a hundred advocates demonstrated on the Capitol's Great Western Staircase. They held signs, sang songs and told stories about their struggles as renters.
Two weeks ago, housing activists staged protests where they blocked the entrance to legislative chambers and got arrested.
But still, the bills, sponsored in the Assembly by Pamela Hunter and in the Senate by Julia Salazar, were a no-go.
"... Governor Kathy Hochul, Speaker Carl Heastie, and Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins chose to cater to a small set of wealthy landlords over the needs of millions of working families," Housing Justice For All, a coalition of more than 80 organizations representing tenants and homeless New Yorkers, said in a statement Thursday. "Their refusal to pass Good Cause is a moral failure."
What was proposed?
The law would have restricted evictions, barred significant rent increases, and prevented landlords from not renewing leases with tenants who stick to the terms of their rental agreements.
A landlord could still have raised the rent above the law's cap – 3% or 1.5% of the Consumer Price Index, whichever is higher – as long as a judge ruled the increase was necessary and reasonable.
Tenants could have faced eviction for not paying their rent (unless their reason for not paying was because of a dramatic hike) or violating other substantial lease obligations, such as using their rental unit for illegal purposes, causing or permitting a nuisance or unreasonably refusing their landlord access to the property to make repairs or improvements.
Landlords would have been able to take back the rental unit if they needed the space for personal use.
The law wouldn't have applied to owner-occupied buildings with fewer than four rental units or renters who already live in regulated housing.
A handful of Hudson Valley municipalities have passed their own good cause eviction laws during the pandemic, including Newburgh, Beacon, Kingston and Poughkeepsie. Albany was the first locality to pass its own good cause law in July 2021.
Other cities, like Rochester, voted against similar legislation brought to City Council this year.
Advocates vs. Opponents
"Really what we want to make clear is that it's shameful the Legislature hasn't taken the action needed, despite broad public support, despite a really intense need," said Brahvan Ranga, the political director of For the Many, a Hudson Valley social justice advocacy nonprofit.
Ranga said advocates were optimistic the bills would pass this year because of "upstate victories" with local legislation and "strong public support."
"What happened is since the judge from the Court of Appeals threw out the Senate maps, that combined with a general fear of this election essentially made the Legislature decide that they're not going to do anything significant to protect tenants this session because they're afraid for their reelection and they're afraid of the real estate industry," Ranga said.
Community Service Society (CSS) of New York, a nonprofit that has advocated for statewide good cause legislation since 2018, estimates 1.6 million New Yorker rental households would receive stronger protections if Good Cause laws are passed.
Advocates said the legislation would further increase protections for tenants of color, and particularly Black renters.
Black rental households are more likely to be displaced when neighborhoods change, and are most vulnerable to evictions and discriminatory treatment by landlords, according to a Feb. 2022 policy brief by CSS, Housing Justice For All, the Legal Aid Society, NYU's Urban Democracy Lab and the Pratt Center for Community Development.
But the legislation faced strong opposition from some groups.
The New York State Association of Realtors argued the law was impractical, overly restrictive and would discourage investment.
Homeowners for an Affordable New York (HFAANY) campaigned against the legislation, organizing petitions, emails and phone calls to lawmakers. The group claimed the law would burden property owners, lead to fewer quality homes, and make it more difficult for owners to make profit off their business.
"Good cause eviction, just like rent stabilization has and will effectively penalize owners like myself who are keeping rents low," said Lincoln Eccles, vice president of the Small Property Owners of New York, during a public hearing discussing good cause in January.
He said restrictions on raising rents will make it more difficult to pay his property taxes and maintain his rentals.
Activists plan to continue pushing for good cause eviction legislation on the local and state levels, as they have done over the past few years, Ranga said.
"Now that the eviction moratorium has expired, there are no protections for working class people who were most affected by the pandemic by the housing crisis," Ranga said. "At the same time, during the pandemic, real estate and corporate landlords saw record-breaking profits... The only way we're going to be able to fight back against this crisis is to address the core of the issue: the imbalance of power between tenants and landlords."
But landlords are challenging local laws, passed in a number of cities across the state over the past year. A Troy-based attorney representing landlords in suits against Albany and Newburgh has argued those cities’ laws are an overreach by municipal government and conflict with existing statewide housing rules.
Lana Bellamy covers Newburgh for the Times Herald-Record and USA Today Network. Reach her at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on New York State Team: Good cause eviction fails in NY despite push from housing advocates