More than 300 tenants and state lawmakers last week marched on two of New York’s most powerful real estate lobby groups calling for an end to the much-criticized housing program, 421-A, demanding that Albany lawmakers pass Good Cause legislation in the post-budget legislative session.
According to the non-profit group, Housing Justice for All, the march, targeting the Rent Stabilization Association (RSA) and Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP), came a day after a new report showing just how much RSA, CHIP and the Real Estate Board of New York have spent to “kill” tenant protections in Albany.
The Housing Justice for All and LittleSis report calculated that, over the past four years, these three organizations and the front groups they’ve supported have collectively spent almost a whopping $20 million battling pro-tenant legislation.
“New Yorkers are sick and tired of the real estate lobby buying off lawmakers to do their bidding,” said Cea Weaver, campaign coordinator for Housing Justice for All. “With rents shooting up and evictions surging, we need Albany lawmakers to say no to real estate cash and stand up for tenants by passing Good Cause and ending 421-a.
“We will continue to march and make our voices heard until tenants get the protections they badly need,” Weaver added.
Tenants in top hats and mustaches holding Monopoly Man puppets were joined by a host of elected officials, including State Sen. Julia Salazar and Assemblymembers Harvey Epstein, Zohran Momdani and Marcela Mitaynes.
“Landlords continue to oppress tenants and displace them from their homes and neighborhoods,” said Dorca Reynoso, a member and board member of Met Council on Housing from Inwood, who experienced a 100 percent rent hike from her landlord and has watched her building empty out as her longtime neighbors were pushed out and evicted.
“This has caused a lot of harm to thousands of people like me, and, at the same time, it has made us realize we have a moral obligation to fight back,” she added. “We will continue to organize and stand in solidarity with everyone who’s being harmed, we will hold every single elected official accountable for selling our rights to their donors. We will not give up until we all have safe, permanent and truly affordable housing for all”.
Housing Justice for All said the COVID-19 pandemic has made New York’s long standing housing crisis even worse.
The group said hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are struggling as rents skyrocket, adding that predatory corporate landlords are seizing the crisis to “jack up rents, kick out tenants and flip properties, while exploiting a lack of legal protections to evict tenants – especially mothers of color – as payback for demanding decent living conditions.
“Evictions are on the rise, to the point that there are no lawyers left to represent New Yorkers who are being kicked out of their homes,” Housing Justice for All warned.
In response, it said tenants are calling on Albany lawmakers to pass “Good Cause” legislation, which would protect New Yorkers against unjust eviction and unreasonable rent increases.
“Currently, if you’re not in a rent-controlled or rent-stabilized apartment in New York State, there’s no statewide limit on how much landlords can raise rents,” Housing Justice for All said. “And when a lease expires, landlords in most buildings can choose not to renew it for any reason whatsoever – or no reason at all. If a landlord does choose to renew a tenant’s lease, they can raise the rent however high they want.
“The impact of an eviction goes well beyond just losing one’s home,” it added. “It removes people from their schools, support networks, and communities, worsening public health, public safety, job security, and kids’ chances of succeeding in school.”
Besides Housing Justice for All, the march was supported by VOCAL-NY, Make The Road NY, NYC-DSA, Churches United for Fair Housing, Desis Rising Up and Moving, Los Sures, Met Council on Housing, NICE, CAAAV, Cooper Square Committee, St. Nicks Alliance, Flatbush Tenant Coalition, Southwest Brooklyn Tenant Union, Tenants and Neighbors, MinKwon and Woodside On The Move.