Bill Morris in Legal/Financial on May 31, 2022
When the Democrat-controlled state Legislature passed the sweeping Tenant Protection Act in 2019, it appeared that progressives had gained the upper hand over New York's entrenched and powerful real estate interests. What a difference three years makes. As the current session of the state Legislature draws to a close in Albany, a signature piece of progressive legislation, the Good Cause Eviction bill, appears doomed, Crain's reports.
Led by the Real Estate Board of New York, the bill was furiously opposed by landlords and building owners, as well as some co-op and condo advocates who feared it would interfere with subletting — and would curtail their power to run their buildings as they see fit. The bill would restrict rent increases to either 3% or 1.5 times the inflation rate, whichever is higher, and prevent landlords from denying lease renewals to tenants who had consistently abided by the terms of their leases. Every tenant in New York, in essence, would enjoy some of the protections of a rent-stabilized tenant. Local legislatures have passed good cause into law in the cities of Poughkeepsie, Kingston, Newburgh and Albany. Versions of good cause already exist in California, Oregon and New Jersey.
Not New York. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who. like her predecessor, is drawing close to the real estate industry, won’t affirm her support for the bill. Neither legislative leader — Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie nor Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins — is prioritizing its passage. Progressive Democrats, once ascendant, are finding themselves up against a wall: The legislative session ends on June 2.
(A 1970s-era provision prevents the city from strengthening its rent laws without state approval. Albany controls the city’s fate here.)
What happened to all that progressive momentum? A number of Democrats are afraid of passing controversial or notable bills in an election year. Others claimed they were too focused on the redistricting chaos and now want to concentrate on re-election and raising money. Legislative oxygen has been consumed, in recent days, by the response to the Buffalo mass shooting, the looming repeal of Roe v. Wade, and the debate over whether to renew a version of the 421-a tax abatement.
Translation: an idea that once appeared inevitable is now DOA. For the tenant movement — and progressives in general — it’s a bitter pill to swallow. The real estate industry, no longer on the defensive, has definitively halted their progress.
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