Pedro Coc Xol says he has been locked in what he calls a "housing nightmare” with his landlord ever since his family began renting the first floor apartment of a house on Derrenbacher Avenue in Midtown Kingston in early 2020.
The fight began with the landlord’s complaint about full garbage cans, Coc Xol said, and went on to include spats over children’s toys in the yard, the thermostat, access to the basement and water usage.
What You Need To Know
- Pedro Coc Xol is sharing his “housing nightmare” to inspire other indigenous immigrants to stand up for housing rights and to rally for passage of good cause eviction legislation
- Guatemalan indigenous immigrants have streamed into Kingston in large numbers since early 2018
- Good cause eviction legislation is barely alive, with some Democratic support and just days left in this year’s legislative session
During an interview in his dining room, Coc Xol told Spectrum News 1 the original agreement with his landlord was that Coc Xol’s family would rent the unit for $1,500 per month. Earlier this year, the monthly rent was raised to $1,600, and was raised again last month.
When landlord Ricardo Villa visited Coc Xol to tell the family to leave, he informed Coc Xol the rent would go up to $1,800 while the family searched for a new rental, Coc Xol said. The experience has led Coc Xol, an indigenous immigrant from northern Guatemala who has lived in Kingston for 15 years, to become active with local housing and immigrant rights advocates.
“I don’t want any problems,” he said in Spanish. “I just want a home that is safe and confortable for my family … The threat of eviction keeps me up at night.”
This week he joined organizers advocacy group Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson at Academy Green Park to rally for passage of several pieces of legislation including the ‘Good Cause Eviction’ bill. If enacted into law, monthly rent increases would be capped at 3% each year. And to evict a tenant, a landlord would have to obtain approval of a reason to evict by a judge.
NLMH Organizer Diana López said Kingston officials should join this coalition of activists to pressure lawmakers to move the bill with just days left in the legislative session.
“And Kingston right now … we are really in a bad housing crisis, worse than we thought,” López said, “and we really think that Kingston should be a leader for other counties and cities for this.”
Opponents of the 'Good Cause Eviction' legislation, including the New York State Association of Realtors, have been vocal last year and this year, continuing to point out that the 3% cap on yearly rental increases would not keep up with increases in landlords’ property taxes.
The legislation has come up in recent sessions, and was nixed from a large package of housing reforms in 2019.
Back in his dining room, Coc-Xol said families like his should not have to worry about losing their homes, especially when they are consistently paying their rents on time. He hopes his words reach other indigenous Guatemalans who live in Midtown. Many do not speak fluent English, and have found themselves evicted, in dangerous living situations, and even exploited.
At least a hundred families from the same region of Guatemala have settled in Kingston since early 2018. Many are living here while they await news on their asylum applications.
“It’s important people who don’t speak Spanish, speak up,” he said, “because there is help for them. That’s why I’m doing this.”
The bill is in the judiciary committee and has some Democratic support.