Skip to Content
Paying Rent

Powerful New York Lawmakers Call for Good Cause Eviction—Kind Of

Meanwhile, Governor Kathy Hochul has been skeptical of passing new tenant protections.

Tenement buildings NYC.

(Artem Zhukov / Unsplash)

In the midst of the worst housing crisis in half a century, powerful New York state legislators say they want to pass sweeping tenant protections under the banner of Good Cause Eviction legislation—kind of.

Late Monday night, the New York State Senate released their top priorities for the state budget that is due on April 1. The bill that would cap rent increases and prevent landlords from kicking tenants out just because their lease expired—known as Good Cause Eviction—was mentioned by name three times.

"The Senate supports advancing tenant protections that align with the core principles of Good Cause Eviction," the resolution states. The Senate budget resolution, introduced by Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, also said they supported a version of a new 421-a tax break for developers to build more housing, so long as it's "part of a comprehensive housing package that includes the core principles of Good Cause Eviction." Also on the table: increasing the amount that landlords can raise the rent by when they make fixes to apartments, again, assuming that it is "part of a comprehensive housing package that includes the core principles of Good Cause Eviction."

"I'm glad to see it included. They're very clear about it having to be a part of the final package. But, you know, there's some hedge language there," Samuel Stein, a housing policy analyst for the Community Service Society, which has advocated for the passage of Good Cause, told Hell Gate. "I know what I think the core principles of Good Cause Eviction are, but I don't know if the Senate agrees."

Stein said any meaningful version of Good Cause, which has failed to pass the legislature since it was first introduced in 2019, would have two components: No evictions without "good cause" (i.e., not paying rent or violating the lease) and a rent ceiling so that landlords can't use massive rent increases as a de facto form of eviction (the Good Cause bill caps it at 3 percent, or 150 percent of the consumer price index). "In the past, there's been suggestions to do one of those things without the other, but it really doesn't work unless you do both," Stein said.

The Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP), a landlord group that is still attempting to roll back aspects of the 2019 rent reforms, said they were happy about the Senate being open to lifting the $15,000 apartment repair cap and unhappy about nearly everything else.

"While we appreciate the Senate's recognition of the serious financial trouble facing rent-stabilized housing, and the restrictive regulations that have caused this distress, their proposal is insufficient," Jay Martin, CHIP's executive director, said in a statement. 

Meanwhile, CHIP is continuing to push legislation that would allow for steep rent increases on regulated apartments, arguing that thousands of units are vacant because landlords cannot afford to fix them up and put them back on the market. On Tuesday, City Comptroller Brad Lander issued a report that threw cold water on that rationale, noting that the number of rent-stabilized units that are off the market because they need repairs has fallen by nearly 40 percent over the last two years, and that fewer than 2,000 of these apartments currently exist across the entire city. Lander did recommend a "modest" increase to the apartment repair cap. CHIP, which is spending tens of thousands of dollars on lobbying state officials every month, called the report "misleading."

The State Senate's proposals included a new affordable housing plan that was recently touted in the New York Times, a kind of limited-equity affordable housing program modeled off the Mitchell-Lama initiative from the 1950s. And in a win for housing advocates, it also included  $250 million for the creation of the Housing Voucher Assistance Program, meant to help homeless New Yorkers pay for rent. But the Senate was silent on other big housing proposals, like the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, or a bill that would create a state authority for social housing, one that would be empowered to build 26,000 units of affordable housing outside of the current profit-driven model.

Stein, who helped shape the social housing authority bill, said he hadn't heard about the Mitchell-Lama revamp until it hit the Times on Monday, but said he hoped that its inclusion in the State Senate's proposal meant that the conversation around government's role in housing development was shifting.

"Hopefully, they felt that they had to do this, because there is a movement calling for a different kind of state development model," Stein said.

The State Assembly also issued its own budget resolution on Tuesday, but one that was considerably less detailed when it came to tenant protections and affordable housing: "The Assembly is committed to addressing the state's affordable housing shortage by enacting statewide policies that protect tenants from arbitrary and capricious rent increases and unreasonable evictions of paying tenants, ensures strong labor standards, provides development incentives including for office conversions, increase much-needed affordable housing supply, supports existing Mitchell-Lama programs, and creates new housing supply on state-owned land."

The Assembly's Housing Committee chair, Linda Rosenthal, told Hell Gate that her colleagues want to pass "strong tenant protections."

"Whatever name it goes by is kind of immaterial. What's important is that the tenets be enacted into law and the particulars—which we haven't come to agreement on," Rosenthal said. "This statement plainly shows that the Assembly wants to pass tenant protections statewide. And it has the elements of Good Cause, but it doesn't call it that." (Rosenthal also said of the CHIP-backed bill that would allow significant rent increases on rent-stabilized apartments: "There's no discussion of it. It's not happening.")

In an interview earlier this month, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said it was "critical" that the legislature pass a statewide housing plan that included tenant protections, but not necessarily Good Cause Eviction.

You might think that with the leaders of both state legislatures supporting some form of Good Cause that it has a strong chance of winding up being passed in the budget as part of a larger bargain on housing. But when Governor Kathy Hochul unveiled her own budget priorities in early January, she very pointedly left out any mention of major tenant protections, except to say, very explicitly, no new tenant protections were necessary: "Already, New York has vastly more regulated housing stock than any other states, but it still hasn't meant more homes for people."

Instead, Hochul's focus (again) is on incentivizing the creation of new housing—her somewhat vague plan calls for 800,000 new units over the next decade, including 15,000 units on state-owned land. This is obviously important for addressing the housing crisis long-term, but does nothing to help imperiled renters right now.

On Tuesday afternoon, Hochul was asked about the Senate's Mitchell-Lama plan, and about housing generally. She did not mention tenant protections.

"My job is to assess and analyze this, and how this fits into the overall objective, which is to start building again. We need, we desperately need, more housing built in this state. Full stop," Hochul said. 

While it's understandable that funding for new housing would be in the budget, why are tenant protections and tweaks to existing laws happening during budget negotiations? Well, that's Albany. Now, the governor and the legislature essentially have two weeks to cram as much as they can into the budget itself before it is due at the beginning of April. Individual bills will be debated and considered before the legislature leaves town in June, but that means they must withstand more intense scrutiny and lobbying to get passed.

"The Senate One House represents strong positions from the Democratic conference. It includes numerous proposals that I enthusiastically support and a few that I personally oppose," Brooklyn State Senator Julia Salazar, who is a primary sponsor of the Good Cause Eviction bill, told Hell Gate in a text. "I'm looking forward to seeing the legislature and the governor ultimately achieve a housing deal that includes protecting families from being evicted without good cause and responsibly building affordable housing that we desperately need."

Already a user?Log in

Thanks for reading!

Give us your email address to keep reading two more articles for free

See all subscription options

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Hell Gate

See all posts