The heads of New York’s largest labor unions are urging Gov. Kathy Hochul and state leaders to support legislation that would offer protections to more than 1 million renters by limiting landlords’ abilities to raise rent and evict tenants without “good cause.”

Last week, 14 labor groups representing hundreds of thousands of workers sent a letter to Hochul, State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, stating that housing insecurity is a major cause of stress for their members.

“With the support of elected leaders like you, we fight for fair wages and respectful working conditions every day in workplaces across the state,” according to the letter dated March 9. “Too often, though, the wage gains our members win at the bargaining table are wiped away by the escalating cost of rental housing.”

Under the legislation, landlords would still be permitted to evict a tenant but only for specific reasons known as "good cause." Examples of "good cause" include failure to pay rent, causing a nuisance, or if the landlord wants to take back the apartment to use it themselves. The bill would also allow tenants to challenge annual rent increases that are over 3%, or in years when inflation is high, over 150% of the consumer price index, whichever is higher. In 2022, that number is roughly equal to 8%.

Currently, landlords can evict renters living in market-rate housing even if the tenants paid their rents on time and complied will all the terms in the rental agreements. And landlords can raise the rent as much as they want.

Hochul and Heastie have not publicly taken a position on the bill, introduced by state Senator Julia Salazar, who represents parts of northern Brooklyn. Last month, Stewart-Cousins said on the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC that the legislation would not be approved in its current form.

Jim Urso, a spokesperson for Hochul, said the governor will work with the legislature and advocates to keep tenants in their homes.

Heastie and Stewart-Cousins did not respond to requests seeking comment.

The 14 unions include 1199SEIU, which represents healthcare workers, and the New York State Nurses Association. Other signatories represented musicians, taxi drivers, and auto workers.

New York’s proposal would offer protections to 1.6 million households living in unregulated market-rate rentals across the state.

“Landlords are forcing people to leave their homes for no reason other than the lease is up,” said Cea Weaver, a tenant rights advocate, and a strategist for the Housing Justice for All Coalition. “They are achieving their aim largely by refusing to renew leases and hiking rents. This legislation gives tenants a right to remain in their homes unless landlords have a good reason to force them out.”

Officials from the Real Estate Board of New York, the industry’s main lobbying arm, and Community Housing Improvement Program, a group made up of about 4,000 owners of mostly rent-stabilized units, declined to comment. They referred a request for comment to Ross M. Wallenstein, spokesperson for Homeowners for an Affordable New York.

"These unions may think they are helping everyday renters, but really what they will do in pushing for this overreaching legislation is causing higher property taxes, higher rents, fewer quality homes and impossible undue burdens on property owners,” Wallenstein said.

California and Oregon have passed similar legislation. Several cities in New York, including Albany, Beacon, Kingston, Newburgh, and Poughkeepsie, have adopted their own “good cause” eviction laws. Landlords in Albany have sued the city over the legislation.

Michelle Ned, a delegate of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, which represents more than 230,000 workers in the state, said she’s witnessed the effects of a lack of protections for renters firsthand. When she moved into her two-bedroom apartment in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, 28 years ago, her rent-stabilized unit went for $900 a month. Today it’s $2,000 a month.

However, she said the same size apartment in her building commands $5,000 a month on the open market, driving longtime residents from their homes because they can no longer afford the exorbitant rents. She said many of the neighbors who used to live in her building, whom she described as racially diverse, middle-income families, have moved out.

“Now all the Blacks are gone. You have just a handful, maybe five or so, including my family, that are there now,” Ned said. “The rest […] were forced out and then they had to leave, and some of them had to relocate because they can't afford the rent anymore.”

Ned is also calling on the governor to help workers who’ve paid their rents on time remain in their homes.

“So, I would like to tell the governor: let's pass this. Let's help, especially the people who were working during the pandemic, like these essential workers,” Ned said. “Let’s help them to stay where they are.”