Right now, Brooklyn housing rights groups are all talking about the Good Cause Evictions Bill, which, if passed, would require landlords to justify their evictions based on — you guessed it — good cause.
And, according to this bill, "good cause" will not include non-payment following a rent increase that the tenant cannot afford.
The bill, which will be decided on in the next few weeks, was introduced in 2019 by State Senator from Brooklyn, Julia Salazar, and Syracuse Assembly Member Pamela Hunter.
The stakes of the decision have increased in the past week after Albany’s appellate court upheld a decision to overturn the city’s Good Cause law.
The legal decision argued that the city’s Good Cause law violated the state’s current eviction laws, raising the pressure to pass similar laws on a state level first.
So, a coalition of tenant advocacy groups led by Housing Justice For All will take to Albany on Tuesday, March 14, for a day of action.
Participants will fight to pass the Good Cause bill, along with other related pieces of legislation, through various demonstrations and a takeover of Gov. Kathy Hochul's office.
According to Esteban Girón, a Crown Heights Tenant Union member and a coordinator for the upcoming Albany trip, 1,500 people are expected to participate.
Given the kind of support and attention that the Good Cause bill has seen recently, Girón is optimistic that the bill will get passed. However, he is wary of the bill’s potential to be watered down during budget negotiations.
“We are paying close attention to what’s being negotiated. We don’t want anything negotiated that’s going to leave out a whole lot of people or that’s going to make [Good Cause] any less transformative than it needs to be,” Girón told BK Reader.
“We’re gonna go full out. We’re gonna go up to Albany and we’re gonna lobby like hell,” Girón said of the upcoming trip. “There will be civil disobedience.”
Joanna Laine, a tenant attorney in Brooklyn and a member of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, also supports Good Cause: “I’ve seen so many tenants being forced to leave their longtime homes for no reason at all,” she told BK Reader.
Many of Laine’s cases begin with tenants asking for repairs and landlords replying with eviction notices, she said. Good Cause would end retaliatory evictions, Laine said, while allowing rightful evictions to continue.
While there is technically a retaliatory eviction law in place, Laine said it is challenging to prove, and Good Cause would provide increased protection for tenants in these scenarios.
“Facing the uncertainty of the law and its application, tenants often agree to move out rather than fighting their retaliatory eviction claims. Because they know that it’s going to be a tough case,” Laine said.
There is notable opposition to the bill, possibly including Hochul.
Opponents of the bill cite concern that it could burden small property owners, who may struggle to keep up with rising costs of living themselves. In his state budget testimony last month, New York City Mayor Eric Adams echoed these concerns, citing his status as a small property owner. While he clarified the issue of displaced tenants was an important one that needed to be addressed, he also argued that the interests of small property owners had to be considered in the process.
“And if we don’t take that into account, the intention of Good Cause Eviction can displace some of these small property owners and then you’re going to have large investors come in and take away the real pursuit of the American dream,” Adams said.
The legislature’s decision will arrive at a turbulent moment for housing. Recent reporting has cited skyrocketing rates of homelessness and eviction across New York State since pandemic reliefs were lifted, with over 30,000 evictions taking place in the past three months alone.
A decision about Good Cause should be made by the deadline for New York State’s budget, April 1, 2023.