Beacon Housing Talk Goes Private

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Eviction measure would restrict landlords

The Beacon City Council postponed its discussion this week of what is known as “good cause eviction” legislation after City Attorney Nick Ward-Willis asked to confer with council members in private first. 

The council members had planned to discuss the measure — which stalled at the state level but has been adopted by local governments in Albany and, this week, Hudson — after more than a dozen residents spoke in support of it during a Sept. 20 meeting. 

A bill introduced last year in the state Legislature would have stopped evictions without an order from a judge, prevented landlords from arbitrarily deciding not to renew leases and required landlords to justify rent increases above 1.5 percent of the consumer price index. It was championed by advocacy groups such as Housing Justice for All, based in Albany.

After the council began talking over the summer about a number of initiatives to make Beacon more affordable — a Dutchess County survey last year found that the rent on a market-rate studio apartment in Beacon averaged $2,163 per month, or nearly $1,000 more than the county average — Council Member Dan Aymar-Blair asked his colleagues on Sept. 13 to add good cause eviction to the list. 

Brahvan Ranga, a political coordinator from For The Many (formerly known as Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson), said that Beacon is experiencing a “housing crisis.”

“Tenants live in constant fear,” he said during the council’s Sept. 20 meeting. “They’re afraid that an arbitrary eviction or unconscionable rent increase will force them from their homes. They’re afraid to come forward and ask their landlords for better conditions because of how their landlords might respond.”

On Monday (Sept. 27), Ward-Willis asked the council to discuss “what other municipalities have done” in executive session, to better inform, he said, a public conversation. When Aymar-Blair argued that a private session wasn’t necessary, Mayor Lee Kyriacou responded that “litigation threat goes in executive session” without further explanation. 

In its quest for affordable housing, the council has also considered revisions to laws regulating accessory dwelling units. The idea is that if the city makes it easier for a homeowner to create an accessory unit, it could slowly increase the availability of lower-cost apartments in Beacon.

Currently, homeowners must request a special-use permit from the Planning Board to build an accessory unit, and there have been only eight applications in the last five years. But there is concern that relaxing the requirements could lead homeowners to use the apartments as short-term rentals, rather than long-term housing. 

The city also included affordable housing in its application this month for a $10 million state Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant. In that context, the council has discussed repurposing municipal parking lots into structures combining housing, parking and commercial uses.

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