Albany Agenda

NAACP Legal Defense Fund backs ‘good cause’ eviction bill

The civil rights organization joined with dozens of Democratic elected officials to oppose attempts to weaken the tenant protection legislation.

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams speaks at a rally in support of good cause eviction on April 11, 2024.

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams speaks at a rally in support of good cause eviction on April 11, 2024. Sahalie Donaldson

This year’s housing deal is beginning to take shape, and dozens of city and state lawmakers, scores of housing advocates and even segments of the real estate industry are calling foul. The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund joined the fray on Wednesday, writing a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul, state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie urging them to pass the “good cause” eviction legislation as written. 

“Legislators may propose a weaker version of the bill that would require municipalities outside New York City to opt-in to Good Cause and would expand certain exemptions for landlords with fewer units,” the letter said.” We strongly oppose these changes to the bills – all New Yorkers deserve protection from unfair evictions.”

The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund’s support for “good cause” eviction puts it at odds with its better-known cousin, the NAACP. Although the Legal Defense Fund was originally founded as an arm of the NAACP, the two organizations are now entirely separate. Last year, Hazel Dukes, the president of the NAACP New York State Conference, published an op-ed in City & State expressing her opposition to the “good cause” eviction bill.

On Thursday, New York City lawmakers and officials spoke out in support of the bill, also urging its passage as written. City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams singled out Gov. Kathy Hochul when commenting on the state of “good cause” eviction. “The governor can send the National Guard but she can’t send housing justice?” he asked. “That doesn’t seem like the correct way to do things.”

New York City Council Member Sandy Nurse plans to sponsor a New York City Council resolution that would see the governing body call for the passage of “good cause.” She said over 20 of her colleagues already signed on. 

“Good cause” eviction would prohibit evictions without a good cause and require landlords to justify annual rent increases that exceed 3%. Current negotiations would reportedly see a 10% limit on rent increases before a lawsuit can be triggered, an exemption for luxury apartments and a 15-year exemption for new construction. 

At the time of writing, 45 state lawmakers oppose the changes. State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris, state Senate Finance Chair Liz Krueger, state Senate Housing Chair Brian Kavanagh and Assembly Housing Chair Linda Rosenthal are among their ranks, but the support amounts to less than half of the Democrats in the Legislature.

Housing Justice for All spokesperson Ritti Singh told City & State advocates are willing to wait beyond this session for a housing deal that supports tenants, in their eyes, more than the current deal would. 

“If the housing deal that's on the table, it's going to take rights away from rent-stabilized tenants, while barely protecting any unregulated renters, we will be urging lawmakers to oppose a housing deal in the budget,” said Singh. 

She cautioned that supporters may see the backlash of a housing deal full of carve-outs come back to bite them in the ballot box. “If this housing package passes, we're gonna see a lot of tenants who are angry about being excluded, and if this happens, I think that we're gonna see that anger play out at the polls and all these races where tenant champions are primarying real estate friendly incumbents,” Singh said.

It wouldn’t be a compromise without anger on all sides. Opponents of “good cause” are less interested in specific carve-outs than they are in seeing the bill dead.  

"Some elected officials are more interested in scoring ideological points with socialists than with adopting practical and responsible solutions,” a spokesperson for Homeowners for an Affordable New York said. “Let’s be clear: Good cause eviction would be a disaster for New York State and is unacceptable in any form. It would negate any efforts to increase the housing supply and only worsen the housing shortage."

"As recent data from the Rent Guidelines Board shows, the condition of the city’s rent-regulated housing stock continues to decline and needs to be addressed,” Jim Whelan, president of the Real Estate Board of New York said in a statement. “The imposition of “good cause” eviction undoubtedly will create significant new risks for owners, developers and funders."

Budget negotiations will drag into next week at minimum, and the housing deal many have been calling for – with lawmakers explicitly hoping to balance tenant protections with development – is one of the items responsible for the holdup.

With reporting from Sahalie Donaldson.

This article has been updated to clarify the difference between the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund and the NAACP New York State Conference.

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