Protesters call out Hochul for failing to support tenants in state budget

Tenants protest Gov. Kathy Hochul at a rally for Good Cause eviction protections.
Tenants protest Gov. Kathy Hochul at a rally for Good Cause eviction protections.
Photo by Asya Pikovsky

In freezing cold and under a hail of flurries last Tuesday, tenants and advocates held a press conference at Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Midtown office to call out the governor for “failing to support any meaningful tenant protections in the state budget,” including Good Cause eviction and the Housing Access Voucher Program.

The Good Cause bill (S.305 Salazar / A.4454 Hunter), which would help tenants fight record-high rents and skyrocketing evictions, is a top priority for Albany this year and has been gaining momentum in recent weeks.

The State Senate and Assembly were due to release their budgets last week, which were expected to include support for Good Cause and the Housing Access Voucher Program, a bill that would set (S.568 Kavanagh / A.4021 Rosenthal), which would set up a statewide voucher program to provide unhoused New Yorkers with rental assistance.

Protesters said Gov. Hochul has been a holdout on the bills, even as momentum for both Good Cause and the HAVP has been growing.

Last Tuesday, two homeowners – one of them a landlord – came out with op-eds in the Times-Union and City & State arguing that Good Cause was good for landlords, saying that the growing dominance of large investors in the real estate market threatened to squeeze out small landlords unless Albany took action to curb landlords’ ability to spike rents and kick out tenants without cause.

Last week, more than 50 local city and county elected officials from across New York came out in support of Good Cause, urging state lawmakers to pass the legislation after local Good Cause laws were preempted by judges in Albany and Poughkeepsie.

In February, dozens of faith leaders from a multitude of denominations came out in support of Good Cause.

Organizers, including the immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New York, said the housing plan in Hochul’s FY24 Executive Budget “explicitly leaves out tenant protections, focusing instead on boosting housing production.”

“When Kathy Hochul says that she’s pro-women, is she only pro-white women and rich women? Because she’s definitely not for women of color. Black women are the majority of women who get evicted, but Hochul has refused to support them by backing Good Cause eviction. We’re tired of being put on the back burner every single year. If Good Cause doesn’t pass, I’ll face eviction from the home I’ve lived in for 26 years. We can’t keep making excuses. We must pass Good Cause this year,” said Dorca Reynoso, an Inwood tenant and board member at the Met Council on Housing.

Organizers said the Good Cause bill would give tenants “a powerful tool to fight exorbitant rent hikes and end unjust evictions.”

The law would require landlords to justify rent increases greater than 3 percent or 150 percent of the Consumer Price Index (whichever is larger) and let tenants fight the increases in court if a landlord attempted to evict a tenant for not paying the new, higher rent.

If a landlord wants to deny a lease renewal, they would need to be prepared to justify the decision before a judge.

“Tenants of small unregulated buildings like mine, do not have protections against unjust evictions and excessive rent increases. We are vulnerable to the decisions of the bad landlords and we become afraid of speaking up about unsafe living conditions for fear of retaliation that could put us on the street. We are less than a month away from the final state budget and it is crucial Gov. Hochul and legislative leaders take this opportunity to ensure all tenants can remain in their homes. Rain or snow, we are making our voices heard: it is time to pass Good Cause eviction legislation. New Yorkers cannot wait any longer,” said Jhon Zhune, Queens resident and member of Make the Road New York.

Make the Road New York said more than four million New Yorkers would benefit from Good Cause – half of all renters in New York State, and as many as 75 percent of tenants in some counties.

The group said the legislation is popular, with two in three likely voters in New York saying they support Good Cause.

“Governor Hochul could find $500 million to invest in a stadium that’s miles away from any neighborhood, but she refuses to spend a penny to support the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who are homeless or could lose their home tomorrow. We’re here risking our health in the freezing cold because we’ve had enough. We are calling on Governor Hochul to do the right thing and pass Good Cause this year,” said Brayan Pagoada, Director of Organizing at Churches United for Fair Housing (CUFFH).