First Albany, next the entire state?
That is the hope of tenant advocates encouraged by the passage of a “good cause eviction” measure by Albany’s Common Council Monday night. The bill caps annual rent increases at 5 percent and lays out other conditions that must be met for a landlord to evict a tenant.
The bill’s passage is a major victory for tenant advocates, who have been pushing for a statewide version of good cause eviction for the past three years. The measure is the first of its kind to be passed in New York.
“Local government seeking action is a clear message that rules like this are needed and wanted,” said Cea Weaver of the Housing Justice for All coalition, which led the charge for the state’s new rent law in 2019. “There’s real momentum now.”
Sen. Julia Salazar, one of the sponsors of the statewide proposal, tweeted her approval of the Albany measure, adding, “Next: Let’s pass our #GoodCause bill through the state legislature to help people stay in their homes.”
Efforts are underway to pass similar legislation in Rochester and Buffalo, which could further buoy statewide efforts. Weaver said her coalition will push for passage of a statewide good cause measure next session, but acknowledged that passing controversial bills during an election year can be a tough sell.
New York’s political landscape could also change significantly over the next year. The state is redrawing its legislative districts, a process that began Tuesday, and midterm elections are next year. Some of the more moderate legislators may hesitate to throw their support behind good cause eviction until their seats are secure.
The state bill proposes that tenants could not be evicted for nonpayment of rent in cases where an “unreasonable” increase in rent occurred. “Unreasonable” is defined as any increase exceeding 3 percent of the annual rent, or 150 percent of the region’s Consumer Price Index, as set by the Bureau of Labor Statistics — whichever is higher.
Similar to the state measure, Albany’s bill grants tenants the right to lease renewals and exempts owner-occupied buildings with fewer than four units.
Landlord groups argue that the Albany measure could lead to an exodus of small landlords.
“It is really going to disincentivize future investment,” said Laura Burns, CEO of the Greater Capital Association of Realtors. “In the city of Albany, these are mostly mom and pops who are really going to feel it.”
In a statement, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said the measure puts the city in a “better position to ensure landlords, tenants and the city have the tools needed to provide secure and quality housing.”
Jay Martin, president of the landlord group Community Housing Improvement Program, said the bill will instead stifle housing development.
“We need to build more housing. And this is doubling down on policies that got Albany and surrounding areas in trouble in the first place,” he said. “I’m very worried for Albany.”