Dawn White and her family have lived in their Queens home for 20 years. She and her husband raised their two children in their two-family house and have deep ties to the community. The White family never imagined leaving their home of two decades. They had a cordial relationship with the landlord, and he had expressed no intention of selling the building.
The White family was caught by surprise when one day they found their property had been moved from inside of the garage to the backyard, and the remnants of a tree which had been cut down were blocking the driveway, impeding the family from using it. Turns out, a new landlord had bought the building and was harassing the Whites to get them to leave. The landlord was attempting to evict both the Whites and the other family in the building to convert it and rent out more units.
What happened to Ms. White and her family is legal under state law and occurs all too often: landlords can evict tenants in unregulated housing without cause, even if a tenant has done nothing wrong and has been a model tenant during their entire occupancy.
However, we have an opportunity before the end of session to pass the Good Cause eviction law, a budget-neutral, common-sense bill that would require landlords to demonstrate a good reason for evicting tenants in unregulated units. It would also protect tenants from exorbitant rent hikes and allow individuals to advocate for repairs without the fear of retaliation.
Support for the bill is robust. On May 17, over a thousand tenants, advocates and elected officials rallied at the state Capitol demanding Good Cause. A recent poll by Data for Progress and Housing Justice for All found that 67% of respondents support the passage of Good Cause - including majorities across regions and demographics.
New York’s leading unions have also called on Albany to enact Good Cause eviction protection. In a letter to state leaders, union heads from 1199SEIU, ALAA UAW Local 2325, DC 37, Professional Staff Congress, NY NJ Regional Joint Board Workers United/SEIU, NY State Nurses Association, NY Taxi Workers Alliance, and United Auto Workers Region 9A, among others, expressed their enthusiastic support for the bill.
Additionally, a recent report by the Pratt Center for Community Development and Community Service Society of New York found that Good Cause would not negatively impact New York's housing supply or hurt small property owners, contrary to claims by real estate groups.
Queens has one of the highest shares of unregulated housing in New York City.
Our Housing Court is overwhelmed by the pandemic backlog of eviction cases, coupled with the deluge of new eviction filings. Housing attorneys announced last month that they were unable to take on any new clients because their caseloads were already so challenging.
We cannot idly wait for this crisis to worsen, while families, like the Whites, are pushed out of their homes, faced with homelessness, or entire communities are displaced. Good Cause would not only protect tenants, it would take a strain off of the city’s Housing Courts by preventing eviction filings.
Passing Good Cause would protect New Yorkers who are still reeling from the financial hardships brought on by the pandemic. The bill would combat long-existing racial inequities and promote community stability. We must stand with vulnerable tenants and stop unnecessary evictions across New York State.
Michael Gianaris serves as Deputy Majority Leader and represents western Queens in the New York State Senate. He is a co-sponsor of the Good Cause Eviction bill