There is a pattern for the creation of poor public policy, and once you know it, it’s easy to identify a proposal that does more harm than good. Is it addressing a well-worn issue? Are professional advocates pushing for it? Is it too good to be true?
The Beacon good-cause eviction proposal checks all of these boxes, and — true to form — this well-intentioned law would bankrupt small-business owners who rent property in Beacon, reduce the city’s affordable housing stock and ultimately hurt the very tenants it claims to help (Against the Advice of Counsel, Feb. 4).
As proposed, the legislation would limit evictions and prohibit rent increases of more than 5 percent. That’s simple for the renter, but housing is a system. A law that inhibits the ability of landlords to operate their business will either drive them out or force them to seek ways to cut costs, and that’s bad for tenants.
From a political standpoint, fighting eviction is a no-brainer. Even the word conjures the worst imagery of families being tossed into the cold by a heartless landlord. The reality is that eviction is already rare and extremely difficult.
In 2019, New York passed the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act, which significantly overhauled rental laws, limiting landlords’ ability to evict tenants. Among other things, HSTPA requires landlords to notify tenants if a lease will not be renewed or if rent will be increased by 5 percent or more. It permits a judge to stay the issuance of a warrant to evict a tenant for up to one year if the tenant shows substantial hardship in finding new accommodations.
Instead of helping tenants, Beacon’s proposal will reduce affordable housing and discourage investment, adding to the struggles already present in an industry that has been hammered by the pandemic. It will strip landlords and property owners of their rights by guaranteeing leases for life for tenants. It will force smaller landlords to get out of the business, leaving corporate landlords — who may not be as attentive to tenants and less willing to work with them — as the only ones who can afford to be in business.
The city attorney has said that Beacon doesn’t have the legal authority to enact a good-cause eviction bill. The New York Conference of Mayors confirmed that legal reasoning. Why would the City Council continue to move forward with this proposal if the legal ability to do so is dubious, at best?
Landlords have struggled through the pandemic as much as anyone else, and they’re working with tenants despite having their own income impacted by state-mandated moratoriums that have been in place for more than a year.
Kelly Campbell, Beacon
Campbell is a member of the Dutchess County Association of Realtors.