ALBANY — Chants echoed throughout the state Capitol and boomed off the steps and walls of the Million Dollar Staircase as activists made sure state legislators heard their demands for affordable housing and an end to homelessness.
“Fight fight fight, housing is a human right!”
“Tax the rich and house the poor!”
“Cuomo, Cuomo, you can’t hide! We can see your greedy side!”
Hundreds of members of groups including the Housing Justice for All Campaign, local elected officials and state senators and Assembly members gathered on the steps to call for more funding for public housing, homes for the homeless and a good cause eviction measure in the 2020 budget. The demands come on the heels of the legislature passing a historic rent stabilization act in the last session.
“It was a historical victory, but it was an incomplete victory,” said state Sen. Julia Salazar, D-18. “We need to pass good cause eviction because there are hundreds of thousands of tenants who don’t live in rent-regulated housing [and] living without protections from eviction. We are fighting for a homes guarantee.”
Salazar is the Senate sponsor of a bill that would prohibit the eviction of tenants without good cause, such as failing to pay rent, violating a “substantial obligation of the tenancy,” using the rental for an illegal purpose or committing a nuisance.
The purpose of the bill would be to protect tenants who are pushed out by landlords who increase rental prices or do not allow for lease renewals to increase rents.
Also on the rally’s agenda was the Home Stability Support bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, D-28, and state Sen. Liz Krueger, D-28.
The bill would create a statewide rent supplement for those eligible for public assistance and facing eviction, homelessness or loss of housing because of domestic violence. According to a Senate press release, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer estimates the bill could reduce shelter population in the city by 80% among families with children.
“It’s not rocket science,” Hevesi said at the rally. “It’s a great supplement, because it’s cheaper to help people with rent than put them in shelters.”
Hevesi said “everybody in the Legislature is for it,” but that Gov. Andrew Cuomo hasn’t gotten on board because of money and business. He went on to list shelters in New York City that make hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
“Since Gov. Cuomo came into office the industry has grown by 66%,” Hevesi said. “But the shelter industry is failing. They’re not just supposed to house people ... they’re also supposed to reduce the length of stay with the shelter.”
In his 2020 State of the State address Wednesday, Cuomo discussed the rise of homelessness in New York. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are more than 92,000 homeless people in New York — a 50% increase since 2009.
Cuomo said the two factors that can solve the problem are commitment of resources and administrative competence, and proposed $20 billion to go toward the solution.
Cuomo’s office did not directly respond to claims that the governor is cozy with the shelter industry, but said combatting homelessness is one of the administration’s top priorities.
“This administration has dedicated unprecedented resources toward combating the homelessness crisis - a cause that the Governor has dedicated his entire adult life to,” a Cuomo spokesman said. “Under this $20 billion housing plan we are well underway to creating or preserving 100,000 units of affordable housing and creating 6,000 new supportive housing units.”
Massarah Mikati covers the New York State Legislature and immigration for Johnson Newspaper Corp. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find her on Twitter @massarahmikati.