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Posted on: August 6, 2021

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan Signs Historic Fair Housing Legislation Into Law

Contact: David Galin

ALBANY, NY – Mayor Kathy Sheehan was joined by elected officials, city staff, and fair housing advocates to sign historic fair housing legislation – Local Laws F, G, and H of 2021 – that will empower the City’s Buildings & Regulatory Compliance Department to proactively address building emergencies, modernize the City’s Rental Dwelling Registry, and create the first Good Cause Eviction Law in New York State. 

Photoshttps://flic.kr/s/aHsmWnUntM

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said, “Since becoming mayor, my administration has committed itself to improving quality of life, attracting investment, and combatting blight, and this historic, transformative legislation will allow us to enhance our efforts to do just that. I am so proud of our Cities RISE team for working tirelessly to make this proposal a reality, and am so grateful to Councilmembers Balarin, Conti, Fahey, and Anane for supporting our efforts alongside their Council colleagues, Citizen Action, United Tenants, and Housing for All. The City of Albany will now be in a better position to ensure landlords, tenants, and the City have the tools needed to provide secure and quality housing in Albany.”

This historic fair housing legislation – Local Laws F, G, and H of 2021 – empowers the City’s Buildings & Regulatory Compliance Department to proactively address building emergencies, modernizes the City’s Rental Dwelling Registry, and creates the first Good Cause Eviction Law in New York State.

These changes will improve the relationship between a landlord and tenant by mandating landlords educate tenants on their rights and responsibilities. This legislation empowers the City to step into the shoes of a property owner to make necessary repairs and charge the property owner, rather than deem a building unsafe and unfit – working to decrease the number of vacant, abandoned, and sometimes demolished, buildings. This legislation also allows the Department of Buildings and Regulatory Compliance to revoke a residential occupancy permit when an owner seriously neglects their property and codifies common-sense grounds for eviction by prohibiting rent increases of more than 5% per year when used simply to circumvent eviction laws.

Proactively Addressing Building Emergencies

  • Empower the City of Albany Department of Buildings and Regulatory Compliance to take more aggressive action to repair easily fixed items rather than declare a building unsafe and unfit (thereby forcing the displacement of residents) and bill the owner for the cost of the repair.
  • Create a fee to be charged to the owners of buildings which have been declared unsafe and unfit by the City of Albany Department of Buildings and Regulatory Compliance to cover the cost of responding to and addressing unsafe and unfit buildings.
  • Make it illegal to tamper with an unsafe and unfit placard without addressing the code violations which required the unsafe and unfit order.
  • Residential Occupancy Permit Updates
  • ROPs will have to be renewed every two years, as opposed to the two-and-a-half years required now.
  • Impose a late fee for delayed ROP renewals.
  • Require posting of ROP at building, with the ROP to include emergency contact information, code enforcement contact information, and tenant advocacy resources information.
  • Allow an ROP to be revoked for willful failure to correct serious code violations.

Implement a Good Cause Eviction Law

  • Build upon a framework already in place in eviction proceedings by codifying common sense grounds for eviction, including: (1) failure to pay rent; (2) substantive lease violation; (3) unreasonable refusal to allow the landlord access to the premises; (4) illegal use of a unit in violation of an order; (5) nuisance, criminal activity, or illegal activity; or a landlord’s (6) recovery of the premises, subject to conditions; (7) entry into an enforceable, arms-length contract for sale of the property; or (8) receipt of tenant’s prior consent to vacate the premises.

6th Ward Common Councilmember Richard Conti said, "Access to safe affordable housing is a human right as well as a public health priority. These new laws will strengthen access to housing as well as streamlining the Building Department's inspection and enforcement authority.  They also provide the tools necessary to address unsafe and unfit building conditions."

7th Ward Common Councilmember Cathy Fahey said, “There are many rental properties that are in deplorable condition and these much-needed changes to the housing code will help ensure our residents live in safe and healthy homes, and that swift, effective action is taken against landlords who do not follow the law. I look forward to seeing how these new laws help improve the quality of housing in our city."

10th Ward Common Councilmember Owusu Anane said, “These new laws will allow the City of Albany to take a more proactive approach in improving our housing stock and preventing blight in many of our neighborhoods. We are asking property owners to do the right thing - to do their part - and maintain their properties and make needed repairs, or we will do it for them in an effort to prevent blight before it starts. Today is a great day and I am confident this legislation will help significantly improve the quality of life in Pine Hills and our other neighborhoods.”

11th Ward Common Councilmember Alfredo Balarin said, “This historic fair housing legislation will not only protect tenants, neighborhoods, and homeowners from absentee landlords, but it will also protect responsible landlords. This will hold everyone to the same standards and prevent tenant intimidation.”

K. Michelle Arthur, United Tenants of Albany said, “With the passage of Local Laws F, G, and H, the City of Albany has asserted its leadership as an advocate for all who call it home.  These laws benefit all members of our community.  Their goal is to ensure stability of housing for individuals and stability of neighborhoods for renters and for property owners.  Now more than ever, in this time of uncertainty, change, and ongoing pandemic, it is essential that this community takes action to address the historic inequities and take action to protect those most impacted by economic, health care, and housing disparities.  These laws do just that.”

Rebecca Garrard, Legislative Director for Citizen Action of New York, said, “Mayor Sheehan’s proposal for Good Cause protections changed the trajectory of housing justice, not just for the tenants of Albany but across the entire state. With the passage of this legislation, Black, brown, and low-income tenants will possess the long overdue ability to defend against retaliatory evictions, advocate for repairs, and be protected against predatory rent hikes. The signing of this bill marks a vital step in the creation of an Albany that recognizes the value and worth of all its residents and sets New York on a path to do the same statewide.”

Marisa Franchini, Corporation Counsel, said “As a City we’re looking forward to using the tools created by this enacted legislation to better serve Albany residents to stabilize and strengthen their neighborhoods as we recover from a very precarious year. We’re confident that what we do with this law will serve as a model program for municipalities across New York State.”

Rick LaJoy, Director, Department of Buildings and Regulatory Compliance, said, “These new laws will be tools we can use to help mitigate the quality-of-life issues we deal with in the City. These measures will also help in our preemptive approach to combatting blight.”

This legislation was drafted by the City of Albany’s Cities RISE team – a group of officials from the Departments of Buildings and Regulatory Compliance, Corporation Counsel, Administrative Services, Planning and Development, and Community Development Agency – who spent more than a year surveying landlords and tenants, holding targeted community discussions, completing extensive research into what other municipalities across the state and nation are doing to combat the housing crisis, and working with various Common Council Members to fine-tune these proposals. The City of Albany Cities RISE program is supported by a $1 million grant from New York State Attorney General Letitia James.

Learn more.

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