Opinion: Struggling New Yorkers need Good Cause Eviction legislation

The state eviction moratorium expired in February, leaving thousands of New Yorkers — Black renters in particular — vulnerable to homelessness. A proposed Good Cause Eviction bill would limit rent hikes and reduce evictions.

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Manasa Gudavalli

Following the expiration of the eviction moratorium, thousands of New Yorkers, especially Black renters and families, are facing imminent eviction. Passing good-cause legislation is the first step to ensuring housing security in a time of spiking housing prices. (Staff Photo by Manasa Gudavalli)

Asha Ramachandran, Deputy Managing Editor

As New York rent prices increase to their highest levels in decades, Gov. Kathy Hochul has left tenants out to dry. The eviction moratorium that allowed hundreds of thousands of struggling tenants to remain in their homes during an ongoing pandemic expired almost two months ago, but the state government has no plans to reinstate it. A new state bill would prevent evictions without “good cause,” specifically prohibiting evictions over unpaid rent after drastic rent hikes. The bill gives tenants the right to lease renewal in many cases. Given the disproportionate impact of evictions on Black New Yorkers, passing the Good Cause Eviction bill is an urgent matter of racial and economic justice. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the state eviction moratorium safeguarded struggling tenants from homelessness. New York maintained its eviction moratorium longer than any other state, but the pandemic and financial hardship are not over. Two-thirds of New Yorkers rent rather than own their homes due to the outrageous housing market in the city. Renting leaves tenants in a precarious position, especially with rent prices increasing by over 30% over the last year. Wages and salaries increased by only 4.6% over the previous year. Rent is unaffordable, and Hochul’s refusal to prolong the moratorium will leave thousands vulnerable to homelessness.

Good Cause Eviction legislation is an essential first step in addressing housing insecurity and unaffordable rent, particularly in such a landlord-friendly housing market. The effects of the pandemic and the financially inaccessible housing market has left tenants in crisis. Permanent housing legislation like the Good Cause Eviction bill protects vulnerable tenants and challenges landlords who continue to drive out tenants with rent hikes and profit from their hardship. 

This bill would apply to 1.6 million renter households in the state — almost half of the state’s renters — and provide financial stability and legal rights to a previously unprotected population. Good Cause Eviction laws not only address economic insecurity, but they also aid the fight for racial justice. According to a report by the Urban Democracy Lab at NYU and partner organizations, Black households in New York are three times more likely to face evictions than white households. Black renters make up a disproportionate share of the renters in New York and counties with high Black populations see more eviction filings than other counties. Housing injustice is inextricably connected to anti-Blackness and racial injustice.

New York City courts are already beginning eviction proceedings with an eviction filing backlog of 200,000. Legal service providers are overwhelmed, and attorneys accuse the city of proceeding with eviction cases even when tenants have not secured legal representation. The city and state governments have failed to protect vulnerable New Yorkers, whose economic survival is at stake. New Yorkers are already feeling the impact of rent hikes by predatory landlords. It is past time to ensure tenants are protected by law.

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Contact Asha Ramachandran at [email protected]