With New York’s pandemic moratorium set to expire in January and the statewide rental assistance program now closed, organizations and leaders in Brooklyn and across the state are calling on the governor to enact legislation to protect vulnerable New Yorkers from a housing crisis intensified by COVID-19.
On Tuesday, Housing Justice For All, a statewide organization of over 80 civil legal services groups, released its legislative agenda with three new bills that aim to redesign housing laws to benefit and protect tenants from eviction and rent increases long-term.
The bills are the Good Cause Eviction bill, which provides protections from unjust evictions for all renters, with specific provisions allowing limited rent increases based on consumer price index; the Housing Access Voucher Program, which creates a rental assistance program for New Yorkers who are currently homeless or are at risk of homelessness, including undocumented New Yorkers; and the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, which gives tenants a right to organize and collectively purchase their building together and convert it into a low-income cooperative, community land trust, or in some cases, public housing.
The group is also calling for an expansion to the Housing Our Neighbors With Dignity Act and the repeal of 421-a.
"We must do right by our tenants and pass this comprehensive housing platform that will keep families in their homes, and ensure that residents have the housing security that they deserve," Brooklyn Senator Julia Salazar said.
Other Brooklyn leaders that took part in a statewide day of action with Housing Justice for All on Tuesday included Jabari Brisport, Marcela Mitaynes and Emily Gallagher, along with local groups Crown Heights Tenant Union, Churches United for Fair Housing, Flatbush Tenants Coalition, Los Sures, Neighbors Helping Neighbors, amongst others.
If Governor Kathy Hochul adopts the new laws for the 2022 NY budget, the legislation would prevent unjust evictions, provide rent assistance for houseless people and create a framework for tenants to organize and buy their building, Housing Justice for All said. It would also stop dramatic rent increases.
Housing Justice for All, founded in 2017 to fight the power of the real estate industry in the state, has a track record of victories in passing legislation that protects tenants.
“Our clients and all New Yorkers deserve these common-sense legislative solutions to the ongoing economic devastation from the pandemic,” said Judith Goldiner, attorney-in-charge of the civil law reform unit at The Legal Aid Society.
“With the statewide moratorium likely set to expire in January, we are facing a tidal wave of evictions, which could leave countless vulnerable tenants at risk of losing their homes and exacerbate the public health and homelessness crisis. Albany must act now to keep New Yorkers safely housed in their homes.”
Jennifer Hernandez, lead organizer with Make the Road NY, added that the pandemic devastated Black, brown, and immigrant communities, leaving people worried about how they would pay their rent or if they would lose their home.
"This upcoming legislative session Governor Hochul and New York leaders have the opportunity to put tenants and people who are homeless first."