“If we don’t get this bill, it will allow homeowners to do whatever they want to move people,” Leroy Johnson, president of the Flatbush chapter of New York Communities for Change, said at a rally. in sunny Brooklyn on a cool December 9 morning.
The bill he is talking about would prohibit the eviction of tenants without â€œgood causeâ€. It’s at the top of the agenda for tenant groups in Albany for the 2022 session, made more urgent by the impending expiration of the state’s moratorium on evictions on January 15. And State Senator Kevin Parker, whose district office one block east of Nostrand Avenue is the site of the rally, has withdrawn his co-sponsorship.
â€œFor some reason, that could be greed,â€ Johnson says with a rich Caribbean accent.
The office seems empty, but the 25 or so protesters are singing loudly. Extending tenant protections, Johnson said, would affect thousands of people in Flatbush. The buildings on the block are mostly two and three storeys, too small to reach the minimum of six apartments for stabilization of rents. And the neighborhood is not rich: at the corner of Avenue Nostrand, the queue for the 50-pound bags of potatoes and cabbages offered by the front of the Church of God of Salvation (Church of God of Salvation) is greater than manifestation.
Unless we can do something to protect unregulated tenants, we’ll be stuck in the market cycle where ultimately no one can afford to live in New York City.
The good cause bill, sponsored by State Senator Julia Salazar (D-Brooklyn) and Assembly Member Pamela Hunter (D-Syracuse), would give tenants over a million unregulated apartments provide protection against eviction without specific reason, such as non-payment of rent or creating a significant nuisance. It would cover all rentals of private apartments, except owner-occupied buildings of less than four units, sublets and apartments already covered by rent control, rent stabilization or federal housing regulations. rents.
According to Salazar’s office, this would also create a presumption that tenants have the right to renew their lease and it would increase the rent by more than 3 percent per year (or more than 1Â½ times the rate of inflation, as measured by the Federal Consumer Price Index) is unreasonable. Tenants could challenge a rent increase or a denial of a lease in court, and the landlord would have to prove it was justified, says Oksana Mironova of the Community Service Society.
The bill would cover nearly 1.6 million homes in New York state, CSS estimated in September. That would include more than half of tenants in the upstate and more than 70 percent in Suffolk County, areas without rent regulations. But that would also include around 785,000 New York City apartments, in buildings too small or too new to be covered by rent regulations, and in deregulated apartments under the rent stabilization loopholes of the 1990s.
â€œWe have a large number of members who live in unregulated housing,â€ says Jennifer Hernandez of Make the Road New York. But when these tenants complain about massive rent increases – â€œ$ 300, $ 400, sometimes $ 1,000,â€ she adds – â€œwe have to say there really isn’t any protectionâ€¦ but here’s what. bill that will change that “.
It would also protect tenants who request repairs or complain about a lack of heating and hot water. For tenants in this situation, the fact that they do not have the legal right to renew their lease means “there really is no due process,” says Rima Begum, associate director of housing stability at Chhaya, a Jackson Heights-based organization serving South Asian immigrants. .
â€œThe only advice I can give them is that the risk of fighting your landlord is eviction,â€ she says. â€œBy the time they go to court, their lease will be over. “
In Ossining, says Michael McKee of Tenants PAC, nearly all of the tenants who testified in favor of rent stabilization in 2016 had been evicted by the time the County City of Westchester enacted it in 2018.
Progress in the northern part of the state
Several towns in the northern state have enacted eviction laws for good reason this year. Albany was the first, in June, though his law allows landlords to evict tenants if they sell the building to a buyer who wants it delivered vacant – a dangerous loophole, McKee says. The gentrifying town of Hudson passed a similar law, but the mayor vetoed it so it could be changed to exclude this loophole, he adds. The revised version is expected to pass, says Citizen Action’s Rebecca Garrard.
Poughkeepsie and Newburgh passed laws for a good cause this fall. On December 7, the Kingston Joint Council decided to defer its first one-to-one vote until January, after tenants opposed a provision exempting buildings with fewer than five apartments – about two-thirds of rental apartments in the city, they said.
Similar measures have been introduced at Beacon, New Paltz and Ithaca. In Syracuse, the city’s legal counsel is reviewing the wording of the bill, Garrard says, while in Rochester, advocates await the incoming mayor and city council, who are “much more politically inclined to pass it.” Preliminary efforts are underway in Utica and Buffalo.
All of this laid the groundwork for moving the bill forward for a good cause in the state legislature. â€œWe created a mandate,â€ says Garrard. â€œElected officials are realizing that they cannot speak out against a policy that their constituents and local lawmakers strongly support.
Albany Assembly member John McDonald was a vocal opponent of the city’s good cause bill, but changed sides when it was passed, she notes. He and Caucus member Kevin Cahill (D-Ulster / Dutchess) face more pro-tenant challengers primaries. State Senator Michelle Hinchey, elected in 2020 in the Upper Hudson Valley, also did not approve the bill. She should remember that the former Democrat who held the seat was removed from office after one term, Garrard said: “In a purple district you have to get out your blue base.”
â€œI feel really optimistic, which doesn’t mean it’s a done deal,â€ she said.
McKee has more doubts. The Senate â€œhas been ready to pass the bill for two years,â€ he says, but there is more opposition in the Assembly, and this must be overcome: Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart- Cousins â€‹â€‹â€œisn’t ready to adopt one. house bill that puts [Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie] on the spot.”
The bill is “very important protection”, he adds, but “it is certainly not as strong as rent control”. This does not guarantee tenants the right to renew their lease, he explains, it just gives them a defense to challenge a denial in court.
He and Mironova say, however, that this will protect tenants from extreme rent increases.
Displacement and COVID
As of December 12, the Bill for a Good Cause had been sponsored by 22 of the state’s 63 senators and 51 of the 150 Assembly members, all Democrats.
Democratic Socialists of America plan to do door-to-door and phone banking for Bill for a Good Cause in districts of four Brooklyn state lawmakers: Assembly Member Parker Stefani Zinerman in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Assembly Member Erik Dilan in Bushwick. , who did not sign it, and Senator Brian Kavanaugh in Williamsburg, who is one of its cosponsors. The canvassers will also be looking for possible supporters for the DSA challengers against three of them in the Democratic primary next June: David Alexis against Parker, Samy Nemir-Olivares against Dilan and Illapa Sairitupac against Kavanaugh.
The state’s emergency rent assistance program for tenants facing eviction ran out of money after five months.
The organization’s branches in Queens and Uptown / Bronx are expected to begin a similar doorstep and primary campaign in January.
Advocates say the bill is also essential in protecting tenants and neighborhoods from displacement, as it is easy to hunt tenants who have no protection against predatory rent increases.
â€œIt directly fights against gentrification,â€ says Begum. â€œUnless we can do something to protect unregulated tenants, we’ll be stuck in the market cycle where ultimately no one can afford to live in New York City. “
She and Hernandez both say they are seeing unregulated housing being bought by speculators in immigrant neighborhoods in Queens, including Jackson Heights. Even illegal basement apartments are getting more expensive, Begum says.
Speculation is also mounting in the upstate, Garrard says, particularly in the Hudson Valley, with housing costs as high as 30 to 40 percent in some areas.
Senator Salazar’s office said it hoped to pass the bill for a good cause at the start of the session, fearing that the end of the moratorium on evictions on January 15 and the reduction in people’s incomes due to the lingering pandemic. do not open the expulsion valves.
His eviction restrictions were included in the original version of the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act, the landmark 2019 bill that filled loopholes in the country’s rent stabilization law. State, but was deleted before its adoption. Mironova says the number of people the pandemic puts at risk of deportation could prompt some lawmakers to back her. She thinks he has “a good chance this session.”
Hernandez says she is concerned that as the pandemic subsides, people returning to the city will pressure landlords to raise rents. With the state’s emergency rent assistance program for tenants at risk of eviction running out of money after five months, she adds, passing the bill “would be a good way forward. ‘extend these protections “.
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