Democratic lawmakers call for sweeping housing reform in New York

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NEW YORK NOW – Democratic lawmakers and activist groups rallied outside of the state Capitol on Tuesday to call for the passage of several bills aimed at reducing homelessness.

The primary bill they’re focused on right now would create a statewide, so-called “Good Cause” eviction standard. That would make it illegal for a landlord to evict tenants without a clear reason, and would require them to offer a renewal lease to tenants in good standing.

Activists are calling for major changes to renter protections Credit: New York NOW

Sen. Jabari Brisport, D-Brooklyn, said opposition to the measure is generally fueled by misinformation.

“They paint this as saying ‘we can never evict anyone ever,’ but what the legislation does is in the name. Good Cause Eviction. It strictly limits the reasons you can evict someone, and limits rent increases,” Brisport said.

The bill would limit rent increases to 3% annually, or 1.5 times the annual percentage change in the consumer price index for rent in that area, whichever is higher.

Opponents of the bill have said capping rent increases would essentially guarantee those increases, because landlords would be backed into a corner. One such opponent is Jay Martin, the director of the Community Housing Improvement Program.

“It’s built into the law, that says that a property owner has a minimum amount of rent they have to apply for,” Martin said during an interview in August.

“Owners will have to go for that rent increase, because they’ll be concerned that if they ever go for an increase more than that, because the cost to operate demands it, they won’t be able to get it because of this new law.”

Good Cause Eviction isn’t the only bill advocates are pushing. Brisport said the other top priority for housing is the Housing Access Voucher Program.

“That would be Section 8 vouchers, to ensure that people could move off of the street, and into housing,” Brisport said.

“There’s legislation, but there’s also just funding. Our public housing needs a lot more funding too. There are a lot of issues. The infrastructure bill is a step on the federal level, even though it’s not as aggressive as it needed to be.”

When it comes to those who are currently affected, Taner Milazzo, with VOCAL NY, said the state needs to address more issues than just eviction.

“It’s getting cold, right? Ninety-two thousand people have to live in this,” Milazzo said.

“I’m sleeping on my friend’s couch right now. I have a full time job. I came out here to get my life together. I’m doing better. I still cannot find a place to live, because landlords want a background check, credit check, you need to make 3 or 4 times the rent.”

Assemblyman Harvey Epstein, a Democrat from Manhattan, said the state passed aggressive tenant protections in 2019, and that the state can do it again.

“Are we gonna stand up for tenants? Are we gonna create more permanent housing? Are we gonna stand up for people in need? Or are we gonna turn a blind eye to them,” Epstein said.

The Good Cause Eviction bill, which was the main focus of the rally, remains in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the Assembly Housing Committee. The measure has already passed on the local level in several cities such as Albany, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, and Hudson.