RTC Condemns State Leadership's Failure to Deliver Tenant Protections in FY 2024 Budget

It’s outrageous that New York State’s elected leadership could not work together to ensure tenant protections in this year’s state budget. If our elected officials really wanted to heal our communities from the devastation of the pandemic, if they truly believed that housing is a human right, then tenant protections and eviction prevention would have been central to a shared Democratic agenda. 

With over 160k households facing eviction, New Yorkers have been calling for the passage and full funding of a Right to Counsel for tenants in this year’s budget.  Our bill for Statewide Right to Counsel (A1493/S2721) would establish a RIGHT for ALL New Yorkers to free legal representation in court cases where a person’s basic human right to a home is at risk. The bill would also mandate that the courts uphold Right to Counsel, fixing the crisis in NYC. Given the power, track record and success of Right to Counsel, Statewide Right to Counsel should have been a cornerstone of the budget. 

Given that thousands are in crisis and in need of immediate relief, and given that the tenant movement has advanced a host of solutions, including a Winter Eviction Moratorium and Good Cause Eviction, we were further disappointed to witness the monopolizing focus, in budget negotiations, on the Governor’s Housing Compact. In her State of the State in January, Governor Hochul claimed to care about mental health, affordable housing and public safety, and yet she delayed the budget to advance a housing plan with zero affordability requirements, no investments in public housing, no requirements to house the homeless, and none of the tenant movement’s demands. 

Every day that the budget was delayed, thousands of tenants were taken to court and threatened with eviction, and many of our neighbors were displaced. The fact that the budget was delayed, in part, to push through a real estate housing plan, added insult to injury. The idea that we can build ourselves out of the housing crisis is ahistorical. The lessons from history are clear: housing supply is not the problem. The problem is that housing is designed primarily to make a profit instead of to permanently house people. Even with tenant protections, this Compact would have been disastrous for working class New Yorkers. We have seen this time and again, so we know what to expect from this kind of plan: more luxury development instead of affordable housing, more profits for developers and landlords instead of solutions for vulnerable tenants and homeless New Yorkers. We call on the Assembly and Senate to stand strong in the regular session, reject the Compact, and pass tenant protections. 

We were encouraged to see $50 million in funding for eviction legal defense in the final budget. The legislature should now pass Statewide Right to Counsel by the end of session and use a portion of this funding to set up the state agency, the Office of Civil Representation, that will administer Right to Counsel. None of our rights as tenants will be fully realized if our state leadership refuses to establish a Right to Counsel for tenants. Landlords will continue to weaponize the court system to force our neighbors from their homes. This is an unacceptable status quo. It’s past time to establish and fund a Statewide Right to Counsel for ALL New Yorkers, to keep tenants in our homes and in New York.

May 2023