Guv hopeful Letitia James endorses “good cause” as Hochul punts

Democratic contender, a landlord, says she was evicted herself

Attorney General Letitia James and Gov Kathy Hochul (Getty)
Attorney General Letitia James and Gov Kathy Hochul (Getty)

Add Attorney General Letitia James to the list of good cause eviction advocates and consider Gov. Kathy Hochul’s position pending.

James, who committed to a run for governor last week, championed the proposed policy in a speech to members of the strongly progressive Working Families Party Saturday. The bill, which has stalled in the Senate judiciary committee, would prohibit evictions under certain circumstances.

Tenants facing rent hikes of more than 3 percent or 1.5 percent of inflation — whichever is higher — would be protected, for example.

As someone “who was once evicted,” James said she and her supporters needed to talk about “rent and housing and all the issues that we care about.”

“Yes, we need to pass good cause eviction,” said James, who bought a small rental property in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, in 2001.

On Monday, Gov. Kathy Hochul declined to take a position on the bill, NY1’s Zack Fink reported. Landlords oppose the measure, which has been adopted by a few localities upstate.

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Late last month, Hochul approved additional protections for stabilized renters, which landlord groups took as a sign that the governor could be sidling up to the left, making good cause viable.

“She is doubling down on the idea that a rent-stabilized lease is a public benefit,” said Community Housing Improvement Program’s Jay Martin at the time. “That shows that she would be more receptive to good cause eviction.”

A spokesperson for the governor did not specify whether Hochul supported the bill when asked for comment, but said Hochul is “firmly committed to helping New Yorkers stay in their homes and will carefully review all legislation that reaches her desk.”

Hochul isn’t the only Democratic candidate for governor who has yet to take a stance on good cause.

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who filed paperwork to run late last month, joined Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson at an August rally pushing for good cause in the city. On his website, which discusses his platform for housing justice circa 2019, he urges the state legislature to pass the bill.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is seeking donations to run for governor, championed “universal rental protections” during state budget testimony last year when Sen. Julia Salazar, the bill’s sponsor, pushed for its inclusion in the budget. However, the mayor stopped short of explicitly supporting good cause. He called, instead, for a 5 percent to 7 percent cap on rent increases — higher than good cause’s threshold.

Possible Democratic candidates Steve Bellone, the Suffolk County executive, and Nassau County Rep. Thomas Suozzi have yet to weigh in on the policy.