Coming in just under the wire, Kingston has joined with other Hudson Valley cities — Newburgh, Poughkeepsie and Hudson — in passing a Good Cause eviction law. Local Law 1 strengthens the rights of vulnerable tenants left in the lurch by the sundowning of New York State governor Kathy Hochul’s eviction moratorium, signed into law September 2 and is set to expire this Saturday, January 15.
The Common Council acted on Thursday evening, January 13.
Previous federal and state eviction moratoria put in place during the pandemic were struck down by the United States Supreme Court on August 26. Plans to put a Good Cause eviction law on the books had been announced in September by mayor Steve Noble and several Common Council members.
The actual language for discussion in the Laws and Rules Committee took until the end of that month. On September 29, after a presentation by Kingston’s director of housing initiatives, Kevin Corté, public hearings to solicit the opinions of the public were scheduled for late October.
The bill was bogged down in the Common Council while the details of the law and consequences arising for both tenants and landlords were parsed out, and the opinions of constituents were taken into consideration.
The proposed law was amended on November 17 to reflect a change in the number of apartments that could be contained on the premises with mom-and-pop owners, as opposed to real-estate management companies, not being adversely affected.
By the time a first reading of the complete legislation took place, the leaves had fallen from the trees in the Hudson Valley — and not all the alderpersoms were on board.
Since-resigned alderman Patrick O’Reilly expressed his reservations at the December 7 Common Council meeting. “I urge you all to take a close look at this legislation,” he said. “I think it’s the opposite of what you’re going to be doing in January or what you want to do. It’s going to scare landowners into not renting their property out and … we don’t want to have less housing in the City of Kingston because of this legislation. I believe in the short term it’s probably a good band-aid, but in the long term it’s going to hurt the housing in the City of Kingston.”
By the end of the meeting, with it becoming apparent that the proposed legislation would have to return to the Laws and Rules Committee for further amendments, alderwoman Rita Worthington became momentarily exasperated.
“You know we keep sending it back! We keep stalling and stalling. and so we don’t have time to keep stalling on this legislation,” said Worthington. “You’ve heard people over and over and over and over talk about the eviction moratorium that’s going to be up on January 15th over and over and over and over people re telling us that they need help right now!” 9
But in order for the legislation to go forward, in spite of the ticking clock, it first had to go back to committee for further amendments.
By January 4, the proposal was back and ready for its final reading.
The definition of a disabled person was broadened to conform with the New York State ADA definition. It includes the view that certain types of chemical addiction should be considered as disabling by the law.
Further tinkering lowered the mom-and-pop threshold to three apartments where the landlord lives in one of the apartments.
There was also a redefinition of language. Among the grounds for removal facing a tenant, rent increases, are limited to no more than five percent year, It cannot be considered except as relative to the tenant’s income rather than a tenant’s ability to afford the rent increase.
Alderman Rennie Scott-Childress, who was there five months before at the proposal’s inception, spoke.
“The Good Cause eviction proposal signals a change in the way we handle rental housing in Kingston,” said Scott-Childress. “I understand that some housing providers are worried at the changes called for — this is only natural. But the proposal, which would better be called Reasonable Explanation, will have minimal impact on housing providers. It will have significant impact for renters …. Are we going to fight to keep our neighbors, friends, and family members in their homes? Anyone who loves the city, who cares for those around us, must answer yes. ”
The Common Council passed the proposed law unanimously, It now goes to the mayor for his signature.