Tag Archives: housing

New Housing Law in New York Having Huge Impact on Tenant Evictions

New Orleans       The Wall Street Journal and its reporters must get a special thrill when they can score an exclusive on the New York Times on New York’s own turf.  I bet they didn’t even care when they went out to celebrate last week at their local watering hole that their billionaire owner, Rupert Murdoch, and all the landlords who read their paper were probably seething as they went line by line reading about the huge benefits the new housing law in New York State was having for tenants.  Their tenants are not big readers of the Journal, but even though they may not have seen the article, they still celebrated.  The difference was that they stayed home, rather than going out, because the big news was that they were not being evicted.

One of the most profound results of the new law has been the almost 50% drop in evictions being filed in New York City’s housing court.   The new law instructed landlords to wait fourteen days rather than three days before evicting for nonpayment or late payment.  According to the Journal’s review of the statistics for the New York City boroughs, “New eviction cases against city tenants for nonpayment of rent are down by more than 35,000 since the law was signed on June 14, compared with the same period in 2018, a drop of 46%….”  The new law also gave tenants more time to respond, all of which has seems to have slowed down the eviction happy landlords who assumed they could threaten someone with housing court and be done with it, and then raise the rents to escape rent control restricts.  Holdover cases on minor lease infraction claims are also reportedly down by 11% as landlords try to figure out how to get the upper hand again under this new 74-page law that closed many of the loopholes they had enjoyed in the past.

Some of the impact is more New York City than universal.  There have been huge increases in legal protection for tenants in the housing court under Mayor DeBlasio.  Admittedly these changes were enacted before the new law, but it has to be a factor in slowing them down now while they figure the angles.  Additionally, there is a “look back” provision on previous repairs and rent increases that is peculiar to NYC rent control that wouldn’t exist in other cities, preventing us from comparing every orange city to the Big Apple.

Nonetheless, the point is impossible to miss.  Making the law fairer and giving tenants real rights and protections does in fact slow evictions and protect affordable housing.  Preventing landlords from playing gotcha on the least little things and perp walking them into courts keeps tenants in their units and lets them work things out with their landlords.

It’s pretty clear already that cities and states in the US and abroad as well need to study the new law and see what they can put in place locally.  For sure tenants and our organizations are now going over it with a fine-toothed comb.

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Land Contracts Are Back in the Census

New Orleans         All of the controversy on questions in the 2020 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, has been about whether a question would be allowed about citizenship.  The federal courts pretty much slammed the door on that question when one judge after another essentially caught the White House and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross separating their answers from their malevolent intentions.  Of course, even so NPR discovered last summer that they had included the question in test surveys sent to hundreds of thousands, called them on it, and they once again promised to remove the question following the standard Trump administration playbook of “catch us if you can.”

The Census hasn’t showed up where we live, but it did show up in the mailbox of my parents’ house.  Knowing how important the American Community Survey is to policies that impact all of us, I opened it with interest, so I could complete the form.

The citizenship question was not included.  On the other hand, if you didn’t speak English or own a computer, you would be stuck-like-Chuck.  There was one large card that was in English on one side and Spanish on the other.  The Spanish side, sent you to the internet to respond.  Good luck with that!  Another option was to mail the form in, but of course that would have meant getting it translated by someone, so that the questions could be answered.  Any problems, they suggested calling an 800-number.  We’ll have to look into this.

There was some good news though, especially for the ACORN Home Savers’ Campaign and everyone who has been trying to track predatory practices involving lower income families and tenants.  In the series of questions about your home, one tried to drill down on the question of ownership financing.  Choices included whether or not you owned the home outright, had a mortgage, or, most importantly to us, whether or not you had a “contract to purchase.”

When I looked up the Census Bureau survey questions on their website, the housing section seemed slightly different than the actual form I had filled out for my parents’ home.  One question on their form was more pointedly about flood insurance for example.  The question in the sample booklet included fire, flood, and other hazards.  Possibly, there are different questions in different parts of the country or maybe this was a test mailing.

I don’t want to get distracted though or take any of you off course.  Including a question once again on land installment contracts is important.  For whatever reason, it dropped off the 2010 Census even as land contracts exploded in many cities after the Great Recession of 2007-2008.  The omission of the question left us scrambling to prove how pervasive the surge of land contracts was across the country.  We could access some private real estate data, but that’s not as good as the gold standard Census work on the American Community Survey. Other public data establishing that more land contracts were being registered in Detroit than mortgages were hard to duplicate in many cities where records were less transparent and classifications were different.  Being thankful for small favors, especially when it comes to the current government, the inclusion of this question should in the next several years give us a better sense of the magnitude of this issue.

The information will still be imperfect because so many holders of such contracts have been misled into believing that they have a mortgage rather than a no-equity installment plan.  Nonetheless, asking about whether anyone in the home has a “contract to purchase” is a pretty comprehensive way to phrase the question to get at most of these situations.

None of this solves the problem, but at least including the questions, and more importantly, getting the answers, moves these predatory practices out of the real estate closet and into the open where we can force solutions for families caught in many of these predatory webs.

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