Support growing in state legislature for “good cause” eviction

Majority of Democrats in Senate and Assembly now back bill expanding rent control

A majority of Democratic state senators and assembly members have signed on to a “good cause” eviction bill, and backers seeking to build on that momentum released a poll Monday gauging public support for the concept.

The poll, conducted Jan. 13 to 19 by progressive think tank Data for Progress, found 47 percent of respondents would “strongly” and 29 percent “somewhat” support a proposal “to require that landlords have a good reason to evict a tenant,” such as “not paying rent.”

But under the bill, failure to pay rent would not be sufficient cause for eviction if the rent were raised beyond a certain threshold. That is why landlords opposing the measure have deemed it “universal rent control.”

The legislation, proposed last year by freshman Democratic Sen. Julia Salazar, would limit rent increases in unregulated housing in the state of New York, prompting some to call the bill “universal rent control.”

The legislation would outlaw evictions without “good cause,” which includes non-payment due to an “unconscionable rent increase,” defined as greater than 1.5 times the local consumer price index in August of the previous calendar year. The CPI in the Northeast rose by 1.5% for the 12 months ending last August; if the legislation were in effect, it would limit rent increases outside of New York City to 2.25 percent this year. (The metro-area CPI would be used for New York City rentals.)

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Given the passage of major rent-law revisions last year, few observers predict significant landlord-tenant bills to be approved this year. Nevertheless, a majority of Democratic senators and assembly members have signed on as co-sponsors to the controversial eviction bill, once considered a long-shot. Twenty-three out of 40 Democrats in the 63-member Senate are now on the bill, but the largest gains for tenant advocates have been in the 150-member lower house, where support has swelled from just four co-sponsors to 57 out of 106 Democratic assembly members.

The bill would have a profound impact on market-rate housing. Its implications have galvanized the real estate industry and prompted landlords to form new coalitions across the state.

A bill was recently passed in California containing similar language surrounding evictions, but with a higher rent increase allowance.

Salazar’s bill was struck from the final version of last year’s rent law package after intense lobbying efforts by both tenant advocates and landlord groups.

The poll released Monday found only 14 percent of respondents objected to the proposal in the survey. Ten percent were undecided.