Hundreds of tenants, lawmakers and activists made the three-hour trek to the state capitol in Albany Tuesday demanding passage of the Good Cause Eviction legislation.
The Good Cause legislation would end no-fault evictions and empower tenants to challenge unreasonable rent increases – allowing for tenants to be eligible for automatic lease renewals, as well as requiring landlords to justify rent increases of more than 3% with “good cause”.
Participants emphasized how interconnected housing rights and healthcare rights are, citing studies that link evictions with higher hospitalization rates – especially among Black and Latinx tenants.
“When I ran I said ‘healthcare is housing and housing is healthcare’,” said Assembly member Phara Souffrant-Forrest. “They were like ‘you need to stay in your lane, registered nurse. What you know about housing?’ Well let me tell you. When you have a nurse walking into people’s homes, bringing care, bringing love, bringing professionalism we have the same problems. The reason you’re forming a tenant’s association is the same reason why I am forming a tenant’s association.”
Other community leaders echoed this sentiment.
“We get to think about the interconnectedness of health and housing and public safety,” said Pastor Tabatha Holley from the New Day Church in the South Bronx. “Two years ago, many of our electeds said that ‘Black Lives Matter’. But in this legislative session we get to see if Black lives really matter. Today and throughout this legislative session we get to see if those who represent the most unhealthy county in the state truly care about our holistic wellness. And how do we care about our holistic wellness? By protecting tenants against unjust evictions. We need the New York Health act.”
Lawmakers reminded those at the rally, as well as their colleagues in legislature that hadn’t attended the rally of Audrey Lorde’s words; “there is no such thing as a single issue struggle, because we do not live single issue lives.”
“We know the struggle for health justice is also the struggle for housing justice,” said Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas. “We know that capitalism and greed of insurance companies and landlords and developers have put us in this position that we are in right now.”
Healthcare leaders who were well-versed in the struggle for quality care while having to pay exorbitant medical bills also spoke during the rally and emphasized just how important universal healthcare is to uplift tenants and how crucial passing Good Cause legislation was.
“We have a system where medical decisions are made by people with no healthcare training that is totally profit driven,” said registered nurse Karen Renée Roberts. “This makes the healthcare system so much more convoluted for patients. This system eliminates anyone who does not generate profit. Healthcare is a fundamental right. So we need to keep fighting and imagining a day without healthcare bills and we need to remember that all we are demanding is the thing that so many others across the world already have.”
Following the rally, advocates attempted to deliver the thousands of postcards signed by constituents which called on Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins to pass the NY Health Act. Heastie’s office accepted the postcards, but Stewart-Cousins’ office refused to accept them and called the Capitol Police on patients and healthcare workers trying to deliver the postcards.
At time of publication, neither office has responded to requests for comment.