New York Says “No” to Good Cause Eviction Bill

5 min read

The state legislature declined to pass a controversial bill that would have prohibited most evictions and made it harder to raise rents.

Image by Sebastian Wagner via Pixabay.com

The New York State Legislature has ended its legislative session without taking action on the proposed Good Cause eviction bill, a decision that was cheered by multifamily industry representatives who say it amounts to another form of rent control and will hinder rather than help create affordable housing and decried by housing advocates who say it will lead to higher rent hikes and homelessness.

The Good Cause eviction legislation was introduced in 2019 and 2021 and again this year by state Sen. Julia Salazar of Brooklyn and Assembly Member Pamela Hunter of Syracuse. Progressive Democrats and housing advocates across the state were pushing the bill even harder this year as eviction moratoriums put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic expired. The legislation could apply to nearly every rental building except for owner-occupied properties with less than four units. Among the more controversial elements of the proposed bill is setting a standard for rent increases at 3 percent or 1.5 times the Consumer Price Index, whichever is higher. Landlords who want to raise rents higher would have to justify those increases in court. It would also guarantee tenants the right to lease renewals unless they had not paid their rent, violated their leases or created nuisances. Multifamily property owners were concerned those regulations, if approved, would keep them from evicting troublesome tenants.

“The proposed bill would have effectively eliminated the ability to evict a (resident) who caused building difficulties, or violated other (residents)’ peace and comfort,” said Kenneth Finger, a real estate attorney with the White Plains, N.Y., law firm of Finger & Finger and chief counsel to the Building and Realty Institute, a trade association serving the Hudson Valley, N.Y., area.

Nicole Upano, AVP, housing policy and regulatory affairs at the National Apartment Association, told Multi-Housing News the proposed bill “disregards the reality of rental housing operations and would have added another cumbersome layer to an industry that’s already heavily regulated at the local, state and federal level.”

But Salazar and housing advocates, including Housing Justice for All, a statewide coalition of more than 80 organizations representing tenants and homeless New Yorkers, vowed to continue the fight for passage of the legislation.

“The fight for Good Cause continues just as it has for these past three-plus years, and it will continue until we win Good Cause eviction protections for families across the state of New York,” Salazar Tweeted on June 2, the last day of the State Legislature’s session for this year.

Cea Weaver, campaign coordinator of Housing Justice for All, said in a prepared statement the group’s members were deeply disappointed that the legislature did not act on the bill. She stated, “lawmakers bought the real estate lobby’s campaign of misinformation about Good Cause.” In her statement, Weaver said the legislation “would protect tenants and landlords alike from the corporate landlords and private equity firms who are preying on our neighborhoods, and who spent millions in a desperate effort to kill this bill.”

Weaver called out Gov. Kathy Hochul, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and stated their refusal to act on the Good Cause bill was a moral failure.

While Hochul, Stewart-Cousins and Heastie did not reply to Weaver’s comments, the officials will make appointments to a new Affordable Housing Commission to study the best uses of state and federal resources to maintain affordable housing, according to Spectrum News NY1. The cable news channel reported they will each appoint eight members to the commission, including people representing tenants, real estate, building and construction trades and other affordable housing experts. The tabled Good Cause eviction legislation would be among the issues the commission would examine.

Bill Called ‘Harmful’

Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, an association representing about 4,000 owners and managers of more than 400,000 small and mid-sized, mostly rent-stabilized rental properties in New York City, and Alexander Lycoyannis, a member of the law firm Rosenberg & Estis and an expert on the proposed legislation, both called the Good Cause eviction bill flawed and said it would have been harmful to tenants, landlords and the state.

Martin said in a prepared statement the bill would not have created one unit of housing or lowered the rent for a single person.

“The affordable housing problem facing our state is mainly due to lack of supply. The only way to solve that problem is to implement pro-housing solutions that include regulatory reform, zoning reform and property tax reform,” Martin stated.

Upano agreed with Martin and Lycoyannis. She told MHN the bill “would have severely harmed the state’s rental housing stock by driving off new construction due to de facto rent caps and defying the very real need for unit repair and renovation—76 percent of New York apartments were built before 1980 and likely need capital improvements  to remain available to renters.”

Calling it a form of “universal rent control,” Finger cited an “inhibiting effect on the ability of a landlord to operate and maintain his or her property in accordance with community standards, as  well as the limitation on rents that can be charged.”

Finger told MHN a lack of maintenance, upkeep, renovation and repair of existing housing, coupled with the likelihood of a decline in construction in new housing would lead to a deterioration of multifamily housing with less available affordable housing.

Lycoyannis said the law, if passed, could result in a decrease in tax revenue caused by depressed property values. Both he and Finger said it could also limit an owner’s ability to sell a property.

Lycoyannis noted several municipal governments around the state have enacted local versions of the Good Cause bill, including Albany, Newburgh, Beacon, Kingston and Poughkeepsie. He told MHN, “those laws will deter housing investment in those localities and moreover, arguably violate the New York State and U.S. Constitution.”

The Albany law is already the subject of a lawsuit filed late last year by several landlords who allege it violates state laws limiting government involvement in regulating rent and evictions. In March, the Rochester City Council voted against a local version of the law with those opposing the measure raising concerns about potential state law violations as cited in the Albany lawsuit.

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