Good Cause Bill Dies in Albany
A New York bill that would have limited a landlord’s ability to evict tenants without cause once again floundered in Albany in the last few weeks of the state’s legislative session, according to Gothamist. The Good Cause bill would have made it illegal to evict tenants except for cases of nonpayment, creating a nuisance or when a landlord obtained a court order. It would have also guaranteed lease renewals and restricted rent increases by 3% per year or by tying it to inflation.
Activists attributed the failure of the bill, which was first introduced in 2019, to landlord lobbying groups. An April report published by housing activists found three landlord groups had spent $7.7 million lobbying against housing reforms since 2018.
The law’s failure comes as NYC rents (and rents across the country) have spiked dramatically from pandemic lows of only a year ago. “Every week we’re getting multiple calls from constituents telling us that their rent is going up like $500, $700, $900 and saying, ‘How is this not illegal’?” Assemblymember Emily Gallagher told Gothamist.
NYCHA Creates Trust to Borrow Billions for Repairs
NYC’s public housing system — the largest in the country — will be able to borrow billions of dollars for its long-neglected capital repairs, per a new plan approved by New York state legislators, The New York Times reports. The plan involves leasing NYCHA properties to a public benefit corporation, which would have the ability to borrow large sums of money for repairs, something the agency currently can not do on its own. NYCHA had $40 billion in capital needs for repairs as of 2020, with an estimated $1 billion accruing each year.
The Plan, made public in July 2020, has split housing activists. Some organizers and NYCHA tenants have equated it with privatization, as it outsources housing stock to a new entity. Anticipating this criticism, NYCHA officials have stressed that the Trust would be managed by the housing authority. But some housing activists support the plan, viewing it as preferable to other strategies NYCHA has used to raise funds. NYCHA has faced criticism from activists for years over other plans to fund the housing authority, including utilizing the federal Rental Area Demonstration (RAD) program, which converts public housing to project-based Section 8 and leases management to private entities. About 62,000 units were in this program as of 2020, according to NYCHA. NYCHA officials hope the newly-approved plan will help it raise some of the $18 billion in revenue it still needs after other funding from federal, state and city government.
Kansas City Evictions Spike as Right to Counsel Rolls Out
The Kansas City Star, citing data from Eviction Lab, points out that eviction filings in Kansas City, Missouri, have risen to pre-pandemic levels. On the week of January 12, 2020, the 28-day average for eviction filings was 119. On the week of May 19, that number was 121. An attorney who spoke to the Star says that completed evictions, however, have not been rising as rapidly as filings, which the attorney attributed to federal rental assistance.
Kansas City voted to adopt Right To Counsel, which provides free legal services to anyone in eviction proceedings, in February of this year, with a plan to roll out by June 1. Unlike other jurisdictions including NYC, however, the Kansas City program will not restrict services based on income.
Washington, D.C., Names Homelessness a Protected Class
After years of advocacy, D.C. has amended its human rights law to add homelessness as a protected class. The amendment which passed unanimously on June 7, states that D.C. will now “prohibit discrimination based on homeless status in areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, educational institutions and motor vehicle insurance sales.” A bill to add protections for people experiencing homelessness was first introduced in 2017, then reintroduced in the 2018-2020 session. A 2014 report released by the National Coalition For the Homeless interviewed 142 people experiencing homelessness and found the vast majority faced discrimination, most of all from private businesses but also law enforcement, medical services and social services. An earlier version of the bill was named for Michael A. Stoops, a founder of the National Coalition For The Homeless who worked on the aforementioned report. Advocates are hoping the added protections will help people not only obtain jobs but reduce housing discrimination for people with vouchers or other forms of assistance.
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Roshan Abraham is Next City's housing correspondent and a former Equitable Cities fellow. He is based in Queens. Follow him on Twitter at @roshantone.