Housing Victory in New York!

A recap of Legal Aid’s role in recent housing reform legislation.

On Friday, June 14th, New York State passed historic housing legislation that enacted sweeping reforms to our rent laws and created the strongest tenant protections in decades. The Legal Aid Society has led a robust campaign alongside our housing allies for many years and played an instrumental role is bringing these reforms to fruition.

We understand that housing is not a stand-alone issue. The right to housing impacts almost every facet of life, including employment, education, immigration, health, and thwarts law enforcement dragnets that so often ensnare our communities.

Our fight for #UniversalRentControl and to defend our clients and all low-income New Yorkers who are susceptible to landlord abuses has taken on many faces across several mediums.

Here are a few of our campaign highlights:

We worked with clients to share their personal stories and underscore the need for specific types of reform. To highlight the need to eliminate Individual Apartment Improvement (IAI) loopholes, visited the Washington Heights home of Lucy, a single mom of two young daughters who is facing eviction, represented by Staff Attorney Jeremiah Schlotman.

To underscore the need to eliminate Major Capital Improvement (MCI) loopholes that push tenants out of their homes, we visited the now-vacant building of our clients who were run out of their apartments by their unscrupulous landlord.

Rally in Albany

In Albany, Judith Goldiner, Attorney-in-Charge of our Law Reform Unit, and Ellen Davidson, Staff Attorney in our Law Reform Unit, were an integral part of the Housing Justice For All coalition, working on legislative strategy and the drafting of legislation over the session. In early April, Davidson and Robert Desir, Staff Attorney in our Law Reform Unit, kicked-off the first meeting of the State Senate working group on rent laws by presenting on the nine bills to over 30 democratic State Senators.

Additionally, Goldiner and Davidson reviewed the bills before they were introduced to make sure that there were no last minute unintended consequences.

Many Legal Aid staff members joined advocates from across the State for #TenantTuesday rallies at the Capitol to demand legislators pass all housing bills. Thousands descended upstate over the past several months, culminating two Tuesdays ago when dozens of advocates were arrested as the housing debate escalates before the June 15th deadline.

Behind the scenes, Desir played an instrumental role in helping with the 61 arrestees, which included Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, by making sure that the three who were charged were released without spending the night in jail.
We stood with key elected officials, such as Senator Brian Kavanagh, Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris, Senator Liz Krueger, Senator Zellnor Myrie, and Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, among many others.

We also partnered with New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson on a Daily News Opinion piece, and worked with The Nation on an essential reader on the Housing Movement, which Goldiner contributed to, among many other media articles.

While this is a momentous victory, we still have work to do in order to truly enact Universal Rent Control in New York. We will continue fighting for essential legislation, like the Good Cause eviction bill, that would protect the most vulnerable tenants from being pushed out of their homes.