“The city and state must stop relying on failed capitalist strategies when developing more housing, which is why I introduced a bill Thursday that would require the city to study the feasibility of creating a municipal social housing development agency.”

David Brand

Housing activists rallied for state lawmakers to pass “good cause” eviction legislation in January 2022.

Few issues garner more anxiety in New Yorkers than their housing, or lack of it. New Yorkers have crammed their lives into increasingly smaller, more dangerous, and more expensive living conditions. The housing crisis impacts everything from romantic relationships to family planning to our mental health. Since taking office last year, I have met with constituents who are living in their cars rather than a shelter, suffering through extreme housing violations for fear of landlord retaliation, or being illegally evicted.

With safe, affordable housing in short supply for working class New Yorkers, it is perpetually frustrating because there are very few options for these folks. Many say our housing system is failing, but I believe that these are not the effects of a “dysfunctional” housing market, but rather the consequences of a housing market that is working as designed—to maximize profit for real estate owners.

This is why, as rents reach record highs, I’m introducing a City Council resolution today with Council Member Gale Brewer calling on the State legislature to pass and Gov. Hochul to sign Good Cause Eviction. Good Cause, sponsored by State Sen. Julia Salazar and Assembly Member Pamela Hunter, is the single greatest protection we can give renters in New York right now. The bill requires landlords to justify rent hikes greater than 3 percent (or 150 percent of the Consumer Price Index) and gives tenants the power to challenge arbitrary or retaliatory evictions.

It would also guarantee lease renewals to most tenants, which currently is not required by market rate landlords. Moreover, Good Cause would give tenants power to organize and fight for better conditions without fear of retaliatory evictions. This is critical for districts like mine, where the number of housing inspections for violations deemed “immediately hazardous” by HPD has reached nearly 6,000 since Jan. 1 of last year.

Notwithstanding the bill’s exemptions for owner-occupied one- to four-family homes, over 784,000 households in New York City would benefit from Good Cause Eviction, including thousands of households in my district alone. Our city is facing historical housing pressure: unprecedented rental prices; record homelessness; dubious practices that limit housing availability; and a wave of evictions in our city’s housing courts. These issues encourage predatory owners to evict low-income tenants and bring in higher paying renters. Put simply, we cannot afford to go another year without passing Good Cause. 

While Good Cause would be an unprecedented win for New York’s renters, we also need better housing models to meet our supply needs. Market-based tax incentives such as 421-a have not produced the affordable housing that was promised. The city and state must stop relying on failed capitalist strategies when developing more housing, which is why I introduced a bill Thursday that would require the city to study the feasibility of creating a municipal social housing development agency.

READ MORE: Rise of the ‘SHIMBY’? New Report Outlines Steps to Social Housing

Social housing—or housing that is democratically controlled, permanently affordable, and insulated from the speculative market—is a new concept to some, but it has contributed to some of the most beautiful and affordable housing in our city and around the world. In short, social housing guarantees housing as a home, not something to be bought and sold for profit. My bill would help us better understand how a social housing development agency could operate, how we can finance and develop more social housing, streamline housing disposition pipelines, and improve enforcement mechanisms. We can and should grow our government’s capacity to acquire, manage, and develop social housing to provide for those—primarily people of color and low-income households—who are currently excluded from the housing market.

Social housing is a buzzword for good reason, with citywide coalitions winning unprecedented funding to expand their social housing models despite a decades-long strategy to underfund and discredit social housing as a viable, scalable alternative to the status quo. We cannot wait any longer to pass these tenant protections or to invest in social housing. City officials say that we need to use “every tool in the toolbox” to fight the housing crisis head-on and I agree: let’s arm ourselves with the best tools for the job.

Sandy Nurse is the Council Member for District 37, representing the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Cypress Hills, Bushwick, City Line, Ocean Hill, Brownsville, East New York. She is the founder of BK ROT, a co-founder of the Mayday Space, a direct action organizer, and a carpenter.