New York Lawmakers Pass Stronger Tenant Protections

New York passed stronger tenant protections.

New York passed stronger tenant protections. Ryan DeBerardinis/Shutterstock

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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Massachusetts legislature passes millionaire’s tax … Dallas limits bulky trash … A city in Louisiana reverses a ban on baggy pants.

The New York State Legislature passed a series of rent regulations designed to make housing more affordable and give tenants more legal protections. Specifically, the measures expand rent control, change the rules around condo conversions, repeal a vacancy bonus that allows rent to go up once a unit is vacant, take away “high income deregulation,” wherein landlords can remove an apartment from rent control if a tenant makes too much income, and keep apartments rented by nonprofits in the rent regulation system. State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie credited the passage of the laws to the “united Democratic legislature” and the advocacy work of tenant organizations. “These reforms give New Yorkers the strongest tenant protections in history. For too long, power has been tilted in favor of landlords and these measures finally restore equity and extend protections to tenants across the state,” he said. Landlords largely opposed the measures, warning that removing incentives for building renovation and lowering rental income could create worse housing conditions. “This legislation fails to address the city’s housing crisis, and will lead to disinvestment in the city’s private sector rental stock, consigning hundreds of thousands of rent-regulated tenants to living in buildings that are likely to fall into disrepair,” said the Taxpayers for an Affordable New York, a real estate lobbying group. Tenant associations acknowledged that the plan will not solve the state’s housing crisis, but said it is a step in the right direction. “We have a long way to go to reach a point where every tenant in New York is protected, but this is a big step forward to correct decades of injustice between tenants and landlords,” said Cea Weaver, a campaign coordinator for Housing Justice for All. The changes will apply to the full state of New York, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he will sign the legislation into law. [USA Herald; New York Times; New York Times]

MILLIONAIRE’S TAX | The Massachusetts state legislature voted to amend the state constitution to raise income taxes on those making more than $1 million per year. The measure would impose a 4% surtax on income over a million. The sponsor of the bill, Democratic State Rep. James O’Day, estimated that the move could bring in an additional $2 billion in state revenue, allowing lawmakers to fund education and infrastructure projects. “We’re supposed to be world leaders. You don’t do that if you don’t have an educated workforce. You don’t do that if you can’t get your workforce to work on time because you’re sitting on the Mass Pike for two plus hours. Those things have to stop,” O’Day said. Currently, the state has a flat income tax across all income levels, which Republican State Rep. Sheila Harrington argued is an appropriate way to structure the system. “Guess what? If you’re making more than a million dollars, you’re actually paying more taxes,” said Harrington. In order to go into effect, the measure will also have to pass at a constitutional convention during next year’s legislative session, and then will have to be approved by voters on the 2022 ballot. [New Boston Post; Massachusetts Live]

BULKY TRASH | The Dallas City Council is limiting the types and amount of trash that residents can leave on the curb for pickup. Before, residents could set out an unlimited amount of bulky trash once a month. The city now has a volume cap, and a $500 fine will be imposed on those who exceed it. City Councilmember Sandy Greyson said the changes were needed because the city Sanitation Department has been overwhelmed by bulky trash on curbs, sometimes spending 10 days collecting the trash left out on the once-a-month bulky trash day. "Our neighborhoods looked trashy, we couldn't walk down the sidewalks," she said. Greyson was joined in criticizing the unlimited trash status quo by fellow Councilmember Ricky Callahan. "The practice has obviously been abused. Let's try to be a little bit more respectful of the city's resources,” he said. The city struggled this month in particular, due to large amounts of storm debris that people left for garbage collectors to pick up. The ordinance takes effect in July 2020, and is part of a larger city effort to reduce waste. [Dallas News; NBC Dallas-Forth Worth]

BAGGY PANTS | The city council of Shreveport, Louisiana, voted to repeal a 2007 ban on baggy pants. Since its passage, the ordinance has largely been decried as racist, as black men have made up 96% of the 726 arrests made under the statute. City Councilwoman LeVette Fuller proposed abolishing it in part because a Shreveport police officer shot and killed a man, Anthony Childs, in what started as a stop because his pants sat below his waist. Childs’ sister, Tyren Pucker, spoke in favor of abolishing the law. "I lost my brother. My nieces and nephew lost their father because of his pants. His pants were sagging. This officer chased him through a field because his pants were at a certain length," she said. Councilmember James Flurry cast the lone dissenting vote. "I believe we have a right, not to tell people what they can and can’t wear, but we do have a right to have a community standard of what we expect in our city,” he said. But Fuller disagreed, and said that while private enterprise can set standards within their businesses, the city should not impose these kind of requirements. "We are just trying to make sure that we are not creating opportunities or pretext for police to engage with people that might be seen as discriminatory,” she said. [Shreveport Times; KSLA]

DEFAMATION ACCUSATION | A former county commissioner in Utah is suing his fellow commissioners because they told the public about an allegation of sexual harassment against him that he says was fabricated. The lawsuit by Greg Graves accuses former colleagues Nathan Ivie and Bill Lee of defamation. A report into the allegations called the female subordinate who made the accusations a “credible witness,” but could not substantiate the claims. The attorney representing Utah County, Andrew Morse, said Graves’ suit is “meritless.” [Salt Lake Tribune; Daily Herald]

Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.

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