Many landlords who signed letter backing “good cause” would be exempt from it
Check of property records reveals endorsers with nothing at stake
Days before Saturday’s state budget deadline, 104 landlords backed by tenant group Housing Justice For All sent a letter asking lawmakers to include good cause eviction in the bill.
The point was to show that not all landlords oppose good cause as a rent control measure that would curtail owners’ revenue and property rights.
In fact, the writers claimed, good cause would help small landlords by reining in institutional, flix-and-flip operators such as Greenbrook Partners who “undercut their competition.”
“We have heard that landlords and property owners stand united in opposition to this legislation,” the letter reads. “This could not be farther from the truth.”
But an analysis of the letter’s 100-some signees reveals many would be unaffected by the policy.
Some manage small, owner-occupied properties that would be exempt from the law. Others aren’t landlords at all.
Anthony Coker, for one, signed as a Brooklyn landlord. But Coker, who works with first-time homeowners at Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, told The Real Deal he owns a single-family home in Clinton Hill that he lives in and does not rent.
The good cause legislation touted by the letter excludes owner-occupied housing with fewer than four units.
Housing Justice For All acknowledged that not all of the signees would be affected.
“The text of the letter itself indicates support for good cause, not that signers would be directly impacted,” said a spokesperson, who added that “single-family homeowners were not included” — a claim that Coker’s status appears to undermine.
Campaign-donation and property records indicate that at least one-third of signees would not be touched by good cause: They own single- or two-family homes or co-ops in the city, Kingston and Rochester.
Lauren Melodia, for example, owns a two-family home in Bedford-Stuyvesant, property records show. She tweeted Thursday that “for homeowners like myself, Good Cause Eviction is an important protection — not only for renters but also for small landlords who live in their properties — b/c it fosters community and makes NY safer.”
An account named NY Property Rights dismissed her take as “comical,” explaining, “Good cause wouldn’t apply to you as an owner-occupied homeowner.”
It is possible that some owners who signed the letter rent a second home that TRD could not identify. Such properties would be regulated by good cause.
That seems to be the case with letter-signer Stewart Weaver, father of Housing Justice For All campaign coordinator Cea Weaver and owner of a single-family home in Rochester, property records show.
A spokesperson for HJ4A said Weaver “manages an additional rental property with a family member.”
The list of signees also includes Chris Butters, a self-proclaimed socialist who has led the Brooklyn Club of the Communist Party USA. Property records show Butters owns a two-family home in Park Slope that would be exempt from good cause.
Housing Justice For All further bolstered its letter with heads of housing advocacy groups who signed on behalf of their organizations, not as individuals.
“Some principals signed in their personal capacity as landlords who own properties and some signed on behalf of their organization,” an HJ4A spokesperson said.
Landlords who have been outspoken against good cause see the letter as an 11th-hour stunt that lacks credibility.
“This blatant fabrication is ripped straight from the George Santos playbook,” said Greg Drilling, a spokesperson for Homeowners for an Affordable New York.
He called it a “disingenuous and unethical ploy to sway legislators rightly concerned about the devastating effect good cause eviction would have on small property owners.”
This article previously stated that Joseph Di Fiore, the leader of City Roots Community Land Trust in Rochester, did not own property, according to Rochester property records. HJ4A furnished records showing Di Fiore does, in fact, own property.