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Biden administration moves to protect Alaska wilderness; opening statements and first witness in NY trial; SCOTUS hears Starbucks case, with implications for unions on the line; rural North Carolina town gets pathway to home ownership.

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The Supreme Court weighs cities ability to manage a growing homelessness crisis, anti-Israeli protests spread to college campuses nationwide, and more states consider legislation to ban firearms at voting sites and ballot drop boxes.

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Wyoming needs more educators who can teach kids trade skills, a proposal to open 40-thousand acres of an Ohio forest to fracking has environmental advocates alarmed and rural communities lure bicyclists with state-of-the-art bike trail systems.

Newburgh declares housing emergency, other municipalities to follow

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Friday, December 22, 2023   

Newburgh, New York declared a housing emergency - and other cities could follow suit.

A 2021 survey finds 77% of people might leave the city because of high rents. It also finds Newburgh residents are spending over 30% of their income on housing.

Just as the city declared this housing emergency, it also approved rent control legislation. Part of this law includes the city council creating a rent guidelines board.

Daniel Atonna, political coordinator with For the Many, said the board's work is critical.

"So, that board will decide," said Atonna, "are we going to freeze the rents for the rent-stabilized tenants in Newburgh, are we going to allow a small increase, are we going to allow a small decrease?"

The board will have two tenant representatives, two property owner representatives, and five public members. The city council has until next month to organize the board.

738 apartments in 68 Newburgh buildings have their rents temporarily frozen. Those residents can't be evicted without good cause under the state's Emergency Tenant Protections Act.

But, Newburgh isn't the only New York municipality facing a housing crisis. Other cities like Rochester and Ithaca are also seeing rents rise to unreasonable levels.

To declare a housing emergency, a municipality must prove it has a vacancy rate below 5%.

Atonna noted that state legislative interventions could have prevented the housing crisis.

"We've been pushing for things like the Housing Access Voucher program," said Atonna, "which would provide housing vouchers to people who are homeless, or about to become homeless, to help them pay their rent. We've been pushing things like the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, which would allow tenants to buy their building from the landlord if the landlord is selling the building."

Efforts have also gone toward passing Good Cause Eviction legislation, which can protect all upstate New York tenants from rent hikes and unfair evictions.

Atonna noted this is part of the continued work he and other housing organizers will undertake in 2024.




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