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Rochester City Council takes up 'Good Cause Eviction' law

People holding up signs protesting poor living conditions
Max Schulte
Members of the City-Wide Tenant Union of Rochester protesting unsafe living conditions in 2021.

Housing advocates are one step closer to passing 'Good Cause Eviction’ protections in the city of Rochester. That protection will give tenants the right to stay in their homes if their landlord does not have a certificate of occupancy or show a 'good cause' to evict them.

These rights have been top of mind for housing advocates who have so far failed to pass the legislation on a state level. The end of the state eviction moratorium has sparked recent efforts to pass the protections on a local level. Currently, the cities of Albany, Kingston, Newburgh, Hudson, and Poughkeepsie have all passed their own good cause legislation. It is possible that Rochester could join them.

A proposed bill recently introduced in Rochester City Council will be up for review during a committee meeting in March.

City Councilmember Mary Lupien is a co-sponsor of the bill and has been an advocate for the Good Cause bill. She said after two years, it's now time to implement the law in Rochester. Lupien said that this bill will help stabilize neighborhoods.

“If you lose your tenancy, it is very high likelihood that you'll end up homeless either at a shelter or you know, at a relative's house," said Lupien. “Good Cause Eviction protection really just says that if you are a responsible tenant, paying your rent, and you're not violating the lease that you can stay in your apartment.”

One of the protections included in the bill prohibits eviction without a certificate of occupancy.

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Ritti Singh with the City-Wide Tenant Union of Rochester, said that landlords operating units without a certificate of occupancy has been a problem, and she's hoping that measure will remain in the bill during committee.

“There are slumlords in our community who are renting out properties that haven't had certificates of occupancy for eight or more years,” said Singh.

“The landlords are illegally renting out the properties, but then they are legally evicting tenants after that, it just doesn't make sense.”

Singh said having the “No eviction, no C of O” measure in place, will incentivize landlords to maintain their properties and decrease evictions.

Lupien said the current proposal is very similar to ones that were passed in other cities, and she doesn't believe that it will go through the same intense revision that the Police Accountability Board proposal did.

“In the past typically, something had to be assured of getting five votes before it would be put forward,” said Lupien. “This is really our first opportunity, especially with this (City) Council, to debate and really substantively merits a piece of legislation to figure out where we can find common ground.”

The bill will be discussed during the next city council meeting on March 10.

April Franklin is an occasional local host of WXXI's Weekend Edition.