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CNY lawmaker hopes eviction legislation, other issues come up next legislative session

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Karen DeWitt
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WRVO News File Photo

The six-month legislative session in Albany ended with some high profile votes from lawmakers; gun control measures, a cryptocurrency mining moratorium, an abortion rights package. But there were some items that didn’t make it. One central New York lawmaker is hoping some of those lost items make it back on future legislative agendas.

There was a big push this legislative session for the Good Cause Eviction bill, which requires landlords to have a good cause for evicting a tenant. It died on the legislative floor. State Sen. Rachel May (D-Syracuse) says there was resistance from some quarters about moving ahead on any tenant’s rights legislation. But she doesn’t think it’s gone for good, because the legislature created a commission to look at creating more affordable and safe housing.

"My guess is they’re going to take a look at all these policies and say ‘we really need this’ or ‘we don’t need this’ or ‘we need something different,’" May said. "But whatever they come up with, it’s going to be very hard not to actually enact those policies, so I think that was part of the idea behind that commission,."

May said lawmakers did approve one piece of legislation that will help tenants, the Tenant Dignity and Safe Housing Act. Which allows tenants to withhold rent or get funds to pay for damages in an apartment. May said these acts will let renters get relief if there are consistent housing code violations.

“So if you’re in housing conditions that are dangerous, if the governor signs it, there’s a simple process and you can go to court and withhold rent, or get money judgement to pay for damages," May said.

Right now the only option for a tenant facing deplorable conditions is to withhold rent, and risk getting evicted.

"It’s a big deal actually," May said. "Upstate tenants haven't been able to do that. Tenants have been afraid to report dangerous conditions because they don’t want to be evicted. This will circumvent that."

May also said there was other environmental legislation that didn’t make it through session, most notably the All-Electric Buildings act that would have been a big step in reducing carbon emissions from residential buildings. But she said there’s always next year.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.