A measure pulled mid-vote from the Assembly floor this week shows state Democrats could struggle to reach a compromise on housing reform in the remaining weeks of legislative session.
With session ending June 8, time is running out for lawmakers to pass legislation — like Good Cause Eviction — they say is a top priority after housing proposals were removed from the state budget.
A bill to ban landlords from reporting late payment of rent to a credit agency was withdrawn Wednesday during a slow roll call vote initiated by Assembly Republicans.
Twenty Democratic lawmakers voted against it, including Assemblyman Phil Steck, a Democrat from Colonie.
"I think the bill had problems because it was too open-ended," Steck said Friday. "Had it said, 'You can report to a credit agency provided the following conditions are met,' I think it would have had an easier time passing."
On the floor during debate, sponsor and Housing Committee chair Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal said landlords have used the tactic to harass tenants to impact their credit rating and ability to secure another lease in the future.
"It's often used as a tool of harassment," the assemblywoman explained before the bill was pulled. "Often there's a bitter, adversarial relationship between the tenant and landlord, and often, landlords try to resort to pollute a person's credit rating, which if they evict them, will make it very difficult to ever rent another apartment."
Rosenthal said her proposal evens the playing field for renters, as landlords can pursue fines for tenants habitually not meeting their monthly payments, or seek eviction in court.
"The Republican Party is often known for deliberately spreading misinformation when opposing policies that would benefit everyday people, and unfortunately, that is exactly what happened on the floor of the Assembly this week," Rosenthal said in a statement Friday. "While there needs to be more education on the credit reporting bill, my colleagues and I remain steadfast in our commitment to prioritizing housing policies that would benefit all those struggling to survive in New York City and state this legislative session. The housing crisis is not disappearing."
Pressure is mounting on lawmakers to adopt legislation to address a number of housing issues after they largely rejected Gov. Kathy Hochul's housing plan included in her State of the State address and executive budget. The governor's Housing Compact proposed to build 800,000 housing units over the next decade with power to override local zoning rules.
Democrats, including both housing committee chairs, are prioritizing the passage of Good Cause Eviction before leaving Albany for the year.
The bill requires property owners to give justified cause for an eviction and limits rent increases on tenants at either 3% of the previous rental amount or 1.5% of the Consumer Price Index — whichever is higher — with exceptions for renovations and higher rises in the consumer price index.
"They don't need a reason under the law right now to do that — they don't really need a justification," said sponsor Sen. Julia Salazar, a Brooklyn Democrat. "Nor do they need it for increasing rent even by an astronomical amount."
Senators fought to include provisions of Good Cause Eviction in the budget before all housing policy was removed.
Landlords across the state oppose Good Cause and say large rent increases were done to keep up with inflation and rent prices significantly slashed at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ann Korchak, board president of the Small Property Owners of New York, says the bill will do nothing to help the lack of housing or increasing property taxes.
"Housing has tremendous costs, and rents have to rise to cover those costs," Korchak said. "...Good Cause Eviction doesn't build one unit of housing, and we need a lot more housing."
Other landlords say the legislation will make it nearly impossible to pursue removing a tenant impacting the quality of life of others and limit accepted evidence in court.
Hochul has said she's working with leaders through this session, and the rest of the year, to reach a compromise to create incentives to build more housing units as well as tenant protections.
"I've made this clear with the leaders: Let's sit down together," Hochul said April 27 while announcing a conceptual budget agreement. "Let's sit down with the housing chairs and come up with a thoughtful approach, work on it throughout the next year as well and look at it again in next year's budget."
But many lawmakers say that timeline is unacceptable.
"We cannot build our way out of this crisis," said Assemblywoman Marcela Mitaynes, a Democrat from Brooklyn. "The governor is talking about she has a year to figure this out, and we are saying we are — we don't have any time."
State Democrats will have to come together and reach a consensus quickly if they stand a chance of passing housing reforms before session ends.
Landlords and lawmakers agree the Legislature must pass a robust housing voucher program to support tenants struggling to pay their rent even if they relocate.
Rosenthal has led the push for the proposed Housing Access Voucher Program to assist with rent payments or New Yorkers on the verge of eviction.
Democrats will also work to pass a bill nicknamed the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act to give tenants the first right of refusal if their building is placed on the market, and offering a rental subsidy for people threatening to become homeless.
Korchak says she supports the intent behind the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act to promote home ownership, but that it would burden landlords to wait several months to give tenants a chance to organize their financing.
"If you're selling the building, oftentimes, it's a family-owned property.... and very often, it's because somebody has died," she said. "The IRS is waiting. It's just not workable, if you have to sell the property, to pay taxes."
Lawmakers argue the measures are a good place to start after the failure to negotiate the governor's housing plan.
The final $229 billion budget passed last week more than one month late, which gives elected officials less time to pass legislation to send to the governor's desk.
"We need to sound the alarm, and we need to tell folks that now's the time to mobilize — now's the time to tell the governor that we cannot wait," Mitaynes said. "We needed protection yesterday."