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State Elected Officials, Tenants and Homeless New Yorkers Launch Push For 2023 Housing Agenda

By Staff

Senator Samra Brouk stand with tenants, homeless New Yorkers, and housing advocates from Buffalo and Syracuse joined Rochester advocates to rally the current housing crisis. Photo provided.

“Housing is a human right. We know that housing insecurity can affect a person’s ability to maintain employment, a child’s ability to learn, and the overall health and wellbeing of a family,” said State Senator Samra Brouk. “Too many hardworking families do everything right but still fall behind.”

Against the backdrop of a housing crisis not seen in decades, Brouk, Assemblymember Sarah Clark, and a representative from Assemblymember Demond Meeks’ office joined upstate tenants, homeless New Yorkers, and housing advocates in front of the Monroe County Hall of Justice (MCHOJ) to launch a push for the Our Homes, Our Power legislative package.

Brouk said New York has an obligation to protect its residents and ensure that all New Yorkers have a safe and affordable place to call home.

The legislation is a set of five bold measures that would allow all New Yorkers to afford a safe and decent home and fight exploitative landlords.

Day of rally, 61 families faced eviction in the MCHOJ, as do hundreds of Rochester families each week.

Tenants, homeless New Yorkers, and housing advocates from Buffalo and Syracuse joined Rochester advocates, to show that upstate New Yorkers stand united in their support for the Our Homes, Our Power package.

Tracie Adams, a Rochester-based leader with VOCAL-NY who has struggled with homelessness believes that housing is healthcare. “If people have proper housing, they do better. Crime goes down, people take care of their health — especially those living with Hep and HIV– and whole neighborhoods get better. We deserve to live where we want to live. If we eradicate homelessness in the state of New York with the Our Homes, Our Power package, we’ll be better for it.”

Rent costs have spiked in Rochester, Syracuse, and Buffalo, while evictions are surging back to pre-pandemic levels, when Rochester saw approximately 8,000 evictions filed each year impacting almost 1/10 residents. Homelessness has reached levels not seen since the Great Depression: on any given night 748 people experience homelessness in Monroe County. And across these upstate cities, tenants complain of poor upkeep of their homes, dangerous living conditions, and unresponsive, out of town slumlords.

Tenants, homeless New Yorkers, and housing advocates from Buffalo and Syracuse joined Rochester advocates to rally the current housing crisis. Photo provided.

In response, tenants and homeless New Yorkers have proposed the “Our Homes, Our Power” package, a set of five bills designed to ensure that all New Yorkers can afford a safe and decent home and fight exploitative and abusive landlords. When passed, the package will fundamentally transform New York’s housing system and shift the balance of power back to tenants.

“Housing, what does it mean to lose it? Could you imagine the disparity of not having any place that is safe and comfortable, to get the proper rest, a place to sit down and have a meal in peace,” said Liz McGriff, Campaign Coordinator for the City-Wide Tenant Union of Rochester.

McGriff said tenants struggle with the concern of possibly losing housing every day, saying it is a balancing act in which one catastrophic event could put you on the streets. “We have had decades of neglect in housing and decades of leaders who have profited. We need a clear, strategic housing solution for New York State,” she said.

“A solution-oriented approach is what people need across New York State. Putting funding where it matters in community solutions. This is the way. United in Our Homes Our Power.”

The housing crisis doesn’t just impact low-income tenants and homeless New Yorkers: it impacts neighborhoods and cities. A Cornell analysis found that an increase in eviction in Rochester’s neighborhoods correlates to an increase in crime.

The Our Homes, Our Power package includes:

  • Good Cause Eviction Protections: Give New Yorkers more power to fight exorbitant rent increases and retaliatory evictions, helping tenants to fight for safe conditions without fear of losing their homes.
  • Housing Access Voucher Program: Set up a statewide rental subsidy program for low-income New Yorkers who are homeless, facing eviction, or at risk of losing their housing.
  • Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act: Give tenants the right to collectively decide the future of their building when it’s up for sale and a tool to more effectively fight for safer and better living conditions.
  • Emergency Tenant Protection Act and Rent Guidelines Board Reforms: Make the process for determining rental rates for rent-controlled and rent-stabilized apartments more fair and democratic by giving tenants a stronger voice in the process.
  • Social Housing Development Authority: Create a pathway to build publicly-backed housing that is insulated from market forces and lets residents exert democratic control over their homes.

Assemblymember Demond Meeks said without dependable housing, struggling community members and families are denied the opportunity to escape the cycle of poverty and provide for their loved ones. He said five out of the top twenty-five poorest zip codes in New York State are right here in Rochester where many of our residents are struggling each day to make ends meet.
“Without proper protections for our families and effective leadership, we cannot expect our communities to recover.”

And, as tenants rallied in Rochester, tenants and homeless New Yorkers rallied around the state at sites that have marked the housing crisis all across the state.

The rallies were supported by Housing Justice for All, a coalition of over 80 local, grassroots organizations that represent tenants and homeless New Yorkers across the State. Members of Housing Justice for All coordinating the rally included Citizen Action of New York, VOCAL-NY, the City-Wide Tenant Union of Rochester, the Working Families Party, PUSH Buffalo, Free the People Western New York, Partnership for the Public Good, Syracuse Tenants Union, Syracuse Tenants Organizing for Power, and Syracuse DSA.

“In order to uplift our disenfranchised residents, we must provide them with one of the most basic necessities,” Meeks said.

“Passing these critical pieces of legislation represents a crucial step towards stopping the violence of evictions and delivering critical support to the people of New York.

Visit https://housingjusticeforall.org to view the Fact sheet on the platform and for all additional information or ways to get involved.