STATEMENT: Community Voices Heard Responds to Poughkeepsie Common Council Budget
Updated: Jan 9
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Eli Berkowitz, Hudson Valley Lead Organizer, Community Voices Heard, 845-541-1122
COMMUNITY VOICES HEARD RESPONDS TO POUGHKEEPSIE COMMON COUNCIL BUDGET
December 19, 2022 (POUGHKEEPSIE, NY) – Community Voices Heard (CVH) commends the Poughkeepsie Common Council for passing a budget that funds legal support for tenants in housing court. We are also glad the Council has committed to funding a rental vacancy study with additional revenue from a Community Development Block Grant in the new year. While this budget does not do as much to protect Poughkeepsie’s tenants as it could, it’s a step in the right direction.
Sixty-five percent of Poughkeepsie’s residents are renters, and one in three renters spend more than half their income on rent. Rents have been increasing at rates that far outpace growth in income and earnings. We’re glad to see the Common Council’s plan to fund a study on the vacancy rate in rental properties that would be eligible for rent stabilization under New York State’s Emergency Tenant Protection Act (ETPA). Rent stabilization is one important way to protect tenants from outrageous rent hikes. We also know the importance of legal support for tenants in housing court; the vast majority of tenants we meet at Poughkeepsie’s housing court are not able to access legal representation. Legal support can help tip the balance of power that is overwhelmingly skewed toward landlords who use evictions as a harassment tactic. In New York City, for example, eviction filings declined by about 30 percent after the City implemented a Right to Counsel.
CVH members previously demanded that the City of Poughkeepsie put $5 million towards a rental assistance fund to prevent evictions by covering rent arrears and providing assistance to those with increased housing costs. On this front, we are disappointed that our demands were not met. We appreciated Council Chair Natasha Brown’s comments expressing the Council’s intent to consider contingency funding for rental assistance; given skyrocketing rents, it’s time to move from comments to action. We look forward to working with the Council in 2023 to ensure struggling tenants have access to rent relief.
We are glad the Common Council’s budget does more than the Mayor’s proposed budget, which did nothing to address our housing crisis. We urge the Mayor to do the right thing for Poughkeepsie’s tenants and pass the budget with the Common Council’s amendments as soon as possible.
“I am happy that the Council has shown they are willing to extend a hand to our community and lower the stress level for tenants like me by funding a vacancy study and legal support for tenants in the budget. Now, tenants like us feel like we have some support from our city council in dealing with out-of-control rents and unaccountable landlords. However, it is not enough just to pass this budget; I call on the Mayor and Council to make sure they put these solutions–and others–into action. Most importantly, the Council and Mayor should commit to meeting regularly with tenants going forward because we’re the ones who know best what’s needed to fix Poughkeepsie’s housing crisis,” said CVH Poughkeepsie Member Linda Bartee.
CVH members look forward to working with Council Members to ensure a timely and effective vacancy study and to generate additional solutions that meet the needs of Poughkeepsie tenants.