Community Voices Heard housing advocacy group rallies for the passing of Good Cause Eviction law. Credit: Contributed photo

The housing moratorium ended on Jan. 15, but tenant advocates in Brooklyn are still looking for passage of the statewide Good Cause Eviction bill to prevent ‘no-fault evictions’ and establish a tenant’s right to an automatic lease renewal in some cases.

The bill was introduced by Senator Julia Salazar and Assemblymember Pamela Hunter, and garnered support from local housing advocates in 2019 and even more support since the pandemic in 2020. The legislation is meant to prevent tenants from outrageous rent hikes or being evicted without cause.

The pandemic fueled the drive to pass the bill before the moratorium ended to help stabilize the city’s, and by extension the state’s, housing crisis. According to a post from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, last year’s $2.2 billion for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) went to an estimated 591,000 households in New York behind on rent, with 75% being households of color. Not many renters, however, received aid.

Salazar said that communities throughout New York face an unprecedented and multi-pronged housing crisis now that the eviction moratorium has ended. “There already was a crisis of housing instability, excessive rents, and arbitrary evictions prior to the COVID-19 public health emergency,” said Salazar. “Now as we enter the third year of the pandemic, the housing crisis has deepened.”

Community Voices Heard Executive Director Juanita O. Lewis said she was for passing the bill as opposed to extending the ‘bandaid’ moratorium. Lewis spent most of the weeks leading up to the end of the moratorium prepping residents and getting them to file for emergency rental assistance. She said unfortunately plenty of people were still nervous because there wasn’t a guarantee in place, especially for privately owned, small buildings.

“The situation was that you wouldn’t be evicted if you filled out the application and things were in process, but because of the way everything had rolled out from the summer until now, there were still hundreds of thousands of applications going through the process,” said Lewis about the weekend the moratorium ended. “People were placed in limbo.”

New York State had received over $2.6 billion in federal emergency rental assistance, said the mayor’s office. In the state’s recent budget proposal, Gov. Kathy Hochul pledged $2 billion in additional funding for pandemic relief, which she indicated should go to the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), the Landlord Rental Assistance Program (LRAP), and other rental assistance programs, like the Community Housing Improvement Program.

Lewis said that budgeting for more money to ERAP is specifically for pandemic relief and that alone will not protect tenants. She posits that Good Cause will go beyond the COVID crisis and help tenants that need repairs in smaller buildings and protections from rent increases.

Salazar called the bill a “common-sense” and “balanced” effort to provide significant protections for tenants throughout the state by clearly prohibiting unjustified evictions. She added that the bill will also provide protections for small property-owners.

“I and many of my colleagues view passing Good Cause as a top priority and are actively engaged in discussions to make this happen as soon as possible,” said Salazar.

Attorney General Letitia James also reminded residents to know their existing rights and protections under state laws. For example, landlords may not charge late fees for rent that was due from March 20, 2020 through June 24, 2021 and
can’t get free money in an eviction proceeding.

James said in a statement, “Although our state’s eviction moratorium may have ended, the guidance we are issuing today highlights the various measures that are still in place for New Yorkers to prevent eviction and stay in their homes. My office remains committed to protecting New Yorkers, and we will continue to do everything we can to ensure the safety and wellbeing of New York residents.”

Ariama C. Long is a Report for America Corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w

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