As state lawmakers return to Albany, battles over budget-excluded housing reforms reignite

The exclusion of Good Cause Legislation and Gov. Kathy Hochul’s 421-a proposal has intensified calls from housing reform advocates and city and state landlords.
Photo Mike Drake

When lawmakers return to the state Capitol on Monday to resume the remainder of a legislative session that concludes on June 2, many eyes will be fixed on the fate of legislation that has deep ramifications for renters and landlords such as Good Cause and the extension of tax incentives for affordable housing development builders.

Good Cause legislation, which advocates argue would protect New Yorkers against unjust eviction and unreasonable rent increases but landlords say would make the rental business a losing proposition, was not included in the final state budget agreement that was reached on April 9. However, legislative sources tell the Bronx Times they are confident that a renewed push for the passage of Good Cause legislation and fighting 421-a, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed extension of a tax incentive for developers to build affordable housing which expires in June, are the focus for some lawmakers following passage of the budget.

On Thursday, more than 300 tenants and state lawmakers mobilized calling for the end of the much-maligned 421-a housing program and to demand Albany lawmakers pass Good Cause legislation in the post-budget legislative session. Much of the fury for protests revolve around a new report by The Housing Justice for All and LittleSis that revealed how three New York real estate groups ⁠— RSA, CHIP and the Real Estate Board of New York ⁠— spent $20 million battling pro-tenant legislation.

The Good Cause bill would cap annual rent increases at 3% or 150% of the consumer price index, whichever is higher. Furthermore, wage protection is an issue for the 20,000-member New York City District Council of Carpenters who were key forces in lobbying against Hochul’s proposed 421-a plan.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated New York’s long-standing housing crisis as hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers continue to struggle while rents skyrocket. Evictions have risen with a target on renters of color and of low-income, and a struggle to find adequate housing representation in court, advocates say.

“New Yorkers are sick and tired of the real estate lobby buying off lawmakers to do their bidding. With rents shooting up and evictions surging, we need Albany lawmakers to say no to real estate cash and stand up for tenants by passing Good Cause and ending 421-a. We will continue to march and make our voices heard until tenants get the protections they badly need,” said Cea Weaver, campaign coordinator for Housing Justice for All.

Housing reform has seen its fair share of victories — in the $220 billion statewide spending plan was a strengthened Emergency Rental Assistance Protection fund as lawmakers added $800 million to the program meant to curtail evictions for those struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But area mom-and-pop landlords like Francesca Friere, who manages a few residential properties in Arthur Avenue and Yonkers, feel that despite the intention of some housing reform advocates, small landlords will ultimately pay the price if Good Cause is successful and 421-a is not.

“Are there predatory landlords in New York City? Of course. Do they need to be held accountable? Absolutely,” said Friere, who said she has not evicted any tenants for her 69 properties since the pandemic began in 2020. “But there are some of us small landlords who aren’t swimming in cash and are trying to make a living off our properties while maintaining a relationship with our renters, and it feels this movement is casting all landlords in a bad light.”

Fears of overregulation of the housing market, as Nicole Upano, director of public policy at National Apartment Association said in a podcast interview this month, could be a reason why housing providers leave the industry altogether.

“Overregulation … is probably one of the biggest factors for why housing providers get out of the business because it just contributes to their business no longer being viable,” she said.

An August 2021 poll showed more than 60% of all likely voters in New York support Good Cause legislation.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at [email protected] or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes