New campaign to pressure Hochul on good cause eviction, 421a

"#HouseNY" to unveil legislative agenda in series of protests Tuesday

Governor Kathy Hochul (Getty)
Governor Kathy Hochul (Getty)

Housing advocates will ramp up pressure on Gov. Kathy Hochul to support new eviction restrictions and repeal a lucrative real estate tax break.

This week, Housing Justice for All and elected officials will launch a campaign under the banner #HouseNY, calling on the governor and legislators to repeal Affordable Housing New York, a tax break also known as 421a, and to pass good cause eviction.

The group plans to hold protests targeting the governor Tuesday in New York City, Albany, Buffalo and Rochester.

Advocates are calling for a statewide good cause eviction measure that would effectively cap annual rent increases at 3 percent, or 150 percent of the region’s Consumer Price Index, whichever is higher.

Three municipalities in the state — Albany, Hudson and, most recently, Newburgh — have approved versions of good cause eviction this year.

Hochul, a Democrat, has not publicly expressed a position on such measures. Attorney General Letitia James, who is running against Hochul in next year’s gubernatorial primary, endorsed good cause last week in a speech to Working Families Party members.

In 2019, a bill that would have brought good cause eviction to New York as part of sweeping changes to the state’s rent law was removed before reaching the floor.

Housing Justice for All’s Cea Weaver said the protests will make it clear that the group’s endorsement in the 2022 election will hinge on where candidates stand on these issues. She said the passage of good cause in individual municipalities has built momentum, but is by no means a guarantee that a statewide bill will pass.

“I think it is an uphill battle,” she said. “Landlords are mobilizing against this bill.”

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A spokesperson for Hochul declined to comment on specific legislation.

“The governor is firmly committed to helping New Yorkers stay in their homes and will carefully review all legislation that reaches her desk,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Affordable New York, which provides a property tax break on new residential projects for up to 35 years in exchange for making 25 to 30 percent of units affordable, is set to expire in June. A bill introduced last year to quash 421a did not make it to a floor vote.

The Real Estate Board of New York and the New York Building and Construction Trades Council are expected to fight for the tax break’s renewal.

“State leaders need to decide whether they will take steps to increase the supply of housing, including new units at below-market rents, over the coming years or make the city’s housing crisis even worse,” REBNY President James Whelan said in a statement.

Opponents of 421a say the $1.7 billion a year in taxes it wipes out could be more directly spent on affordable housing. But supporters say without the tax break, little multifamily housing would be built and there would not be much new property tax revenue to spend. Previously granted exemptions would continue even if 421a expires, so the immediate impact on revenue would be minimal.

Housing advocates are also pushing for more funding in the next state budget for the Housing Our Neighbors with Dignity Act, or HONDA, which was signed into law this year. The measure encourages the conversion of distressed hotels and offices into affordable housing, requiring at least 50 percent of converted units to be set aside for residents who experienced homelessness immediately before moving in.

The last state budget allocated $100 million for such conversions in New York City, and #HousingNY is now calling for $1 billion upstate, Weaver said.

The campaign is also calling for the passage of a bill that would give tenants’ associations first dibs on buying their landlord’s property should it come up for sale or foreclosure, as well as another measure that would create a statewide housing voucher program that would allocate 50 percent of assistance to homeless individuals.