State lawmakers stand ready to lead the fight to secure stronger eviction protections in New York this year after Gov. Kathy Hochul treaded carefully with minor housing proposals in Tuesday's State of the State address — avoiding discussion of tenant protections, which could make way for a tense negotiating table.
The conversation set the stage for lawmakers to discuss the best way forward to reach a housing agreement after last year's deal fell apart over tenant protections, like Good Cause Eviction legislation backed by progressive Democrats.
"If it falls to the Legislature to carry the flag for tenants, we're happy and proud to do that, and by the time we're done, we'll hopefully have a comprehensive solution," Senate Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris said on the Assembly floor after the governor's speech.
Hochul featured moderate proposals in her State of the State address to improve New York's housing supply as pressure mounts on the governor and legislative leaders to take action to the dismay of several of her Democratic colleagues, especially from New York City and urban areas.
Hochul proposed requiring state agencies to review underused state-owned properties that could be converted into housing. She hopes it will create up to 15,000 new units.
"Already, New York has vastly more regulated housing stock than any other state, but it still hasn't led to more homes for people, and that's where the status quo has failed," Hochul said Tuesday.
The governor wants to legalize basement and cellar apartments in New York City, and crack down on housing providers that discriminate against New Yorkers with Section 8 housing vouchers. She will also propose legislation to make it illegal for insurance providers to refuse to cover affordable housing or charging higher premiums to help renters.
But the governor didn't propose any other tenant protections, which fell flat with many Democrats — several of whom did not applaud when Hochul announced her intent to focus on building thousands of new housing units statewide.
"We know we need to build new affordable housing, but we can't do it without tenant protections," Gianaris said.
Gianaris said Good Cause must become law in New York to prevent unreasonable rent hikes, citing the success of similar proposals in other states like New Jersey and California.
Assembly Housing Committee chair Linda Rosenthal agreed, and is eager for Hochul and lawmakers to start discussions to find a solution to both keep New Yorkers in their homes and build more supply.
The governor's State of the State address typically features large concepts outlining the governor’s priorities for the year's legislative session, but lacks details.
Lawmakers are waiting for more details in Hochul's executive budget proposal to be released in one week, or Jan. 16.
"I'd like to see the details and I hope that everybody has an opportunity to present their view and that we get to a place where we get tenant protections as well as getting more housing built," Rosenthal said.
The assemblywoman said she didn't expect Hochul to discuss tenant protections in her State of the State.
"Hopefully, we can start fresh," she added. "...And we will come to a meeting of the minds."