It Looks Like Good Cause Eviction Is Dead (For Now)

Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Every day, the New York housing market seems to unleash new indignity on renters – bidding wars, 70% increase in rents, long sad lines to see sad little walks. If ever there was a time to pass Good Cause Eviction in Albany – a bill that would protect tenants from excessive rent hikes and guarantee renewal of leases or the right to stay for those in good standing – it seems like now . But the moment is running out. There are only a few days left in the legislative session, which ends on June 2, and despite “this obvious housing shortage, price gouging and a very popular bill, we’re hitting a wall,” said Cea Weaver, campaign coordinator for Housing Justice for All, the tenant group that led the campaign for the statewide bill. It’s probably toast.

Previously, this had seemed like a good cause, which would limit rent increases to 3% or 1.5% of the rate of inflation, whichever is greater, and prevent landlords from denying lease renewals to tenants who have faithfully complied with the terms of their leases. (and the right to stay for those without traditional one-year leases), may actually pass this year. Sponsored by State Senator Julia Salazar of Brooklyn and Assemblywoman Pamela Hunt of Syracuse, Good Cause was first billed as part of the rent laws 2019. It didn’t pass with the others, and then the priorities of lawmakers changed. Then the pandemic arrived, bringing more pressing housing issues into focus, like eviction moratoriums and rent relief. This session, Democrats controlled the legislature, the market had fully rebounded (and more) from its early pandemic meltdown, and that moratorium on evictions was about to end, easing fears that the bill would weigh on already beleaguered homeowners.

The State Senate held a public hearing in Januarysignaling that the bill may well go ahead this year – “it was an indication that they were trying to get it and pass it”, said one observer – and on March 11, members of the Congressional delegation from New York to Washington expressed support in a joint letter to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins ​​and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. Although some, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, were left-leaning, this group also included moderates. A number of unions also sided with the bill, including 1199SEIU, which is close to the leadership of the assembly. Good cause laws have also been passed in several New York cities: Poughkeepsie, Kingston, Newburgh and Albany (although in the latter landlords have sued the legislation), and similar laws exist in California, Oregon and in New Jersey, showing that it would be difficult to do so. an unenforceable policy.

The bill’s failure appears to be due not to its popularity or importance, but simply to too many distractions, especially those that force lawmakers to pursue their own work. “There are two things dominating everyone’s attention at the moment – redistricting and people who need to raise money for their re-election campaigns,” a real estate insider said. “Nothing is moving right now, so I would be shocked if something controversial and complicated moved, and Good Cause is both.” The Buffalo Shooting and the Leaks deer v. Wade The decision, which both lawmakers may believe calls for some kind of urgent action, is likely to send complicated housing bills to the next legislative session. The 421-a tax abatement is about to expire, and it’s doubtful that Governor Kathy Hochul’s replacement program, known as the 485-w, will pass. “There just isn’t enough time,” the insider said. “These two bills will not be adopted as is. They need to be amended and refined. People have to meet in a room, and that didn’t happen. Nobody has yet attended a conference or a meeting on this subject. On the 2019 rent laws, the senators involved worked on it pretty much through May. If the recut wasn’t such a mess, he added, Good Cause might have had a chance, but the recut sucked all the attention in the room.

Lawmakers are also reluctant to take a stand during election years. The real estate industry vehemently opposed Good Cause, portraying the bill as universal rent control and a socialist attempt to destroy landlords’ rights. Even supporters of the bill admit that misconceptions harm the bill. “Landlords have this trauma around COVID, and they think this is just another bill that will prevent problem tenants from being evicted,” said Assembly Member Anna Kelles, who represents Tompkins County and parts of Cortland County and supports the bill. “We are all working very hard to dispel this kind of misinformation. This is to prevent unwarranted rent increases and non-renewals. We’ve seen rental costs increase 20% in Tompkins County this year, and in Ithaca [the county seat] 74% of households are tenants. You have tenants who are very good tenants but don’t have a raise, and they’ve also seen other costs go up. If they see a 20% increase in their rent, they move from a completely stable household to a destabilized household.

But while the proposal that good tenants should be able to stay in their homes with moderate annual rent increases has broad popular support, this has not translated into legislative action. “This is a tough bill, a really, really tough bill,” Weaver said. “I think there’s this amorphous fear – to do anything transformative in an election year is scary. Leaders are concerned about majority projection, and redistricting means they don’t have the capacity to pass a tough bill right now. In February, State Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins ​​told Brian Lehrer that “I frankly don’t think the current iteration will pass.” An Albany source said executives didn’t put it on the agenda simply because they didn’t know what to do. Neither Stewart-Cousins ​​nor Heastie responded to requests for comment.

“People pushing this bill have portrayed it as mere protections, but it’s much more than that,” said Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, a homeowners group that opposes the law Project. “I think a lot of lawmakers who may not have dealt with rent regulation yet are leery. And although they compare it to laws like those in New Jersey, New Jersey does not have a rent cap. That perspective has been a point of contention for lawmakers in the suburbs and upstate. Lawmakers have also expressed concerns that it could deter the construction of new rental housing (although this is not a fatality), are already overwhelming housing courts (proponents point out that tenants cannot sue in the affirmative, only in defence), or are tricking landlords into accepting higher increases than they would otherwise have in order to not to fall behind, leading to a backlash from left-leaning voters. (Weaver said she had heard only one state senator express that concern.)

Could the governor do it herself? A source familiar with the situation in Albany said Hochul had ‘completely walked away from the table’, telling lawmakers that if they wanted the housing bills to pass, it was up to them to put something in. thing in place. “I know the people of the mayor tried to speak to tell her about a big deal on 421-a and she’s like, ‘Yeah, sure, you’re getting there.’ These are the vibrations.

Still, even if Good Cause doesn’t air now, almost everyone thinks it could happen in the future. “I don’t believe this bill is definitely dead,” Martin said. “I think next time there will be a solid discussion. I can tell you that affordability in New York is not going to improve unless we figure out how to change the zoning. And the zoning proposals have all failed. Nothing really moved. I think housing will be hot in the next session. At a press conference this week, Hochul said, in response to a New York To post journalist’s question about 421-a: “If it’s not resolved during this session… we will definitely come back to it early next year as a priority… It’s an important objective. But I don’t know if there’s an interest in the legislative bodies right now to push it through this year. And Weaver thinks Good Cause still has a chance this week. “What’s more controversial?” she asked. “Do something or do nothing during a housing crisis? »

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button