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Ithaca Times: The Eviction Situation

Ithaca Times: The Eviction Situation

“As time goes on, without any response from the Department of Health, I’m getting less hopeful that we’ll see anything,” Nguyen said. “But another reason to pursue it, as aspirational as it was, was to raise the profile of the people who are suffering from the economic impact of COVID, and that did happen. We got some attention from around the country, and we hoped that would cause some action at the state or federal level. Doesn’t mean there was a ton of impact, but that was definitely part of the calculus, to raise the voices of the people who need assistance.”

Also worrisome, Nguyen said, is the possibility that the state simply stalls for so long that the eviction moratorium ends and the city is still waiting on an answer, sending the tenants that the effort is supposed to benefit into the same limbo they were trying to avoid—and the ITU’s tenacity, and the resilience of tenants citywide, may simply not matter. At some point, the moratorium will end, the rent will be due, and it’s still unknown whether the city will have any answers for the tenants who are counting on it to come through on a ground-breaking, progressive act. 

“At some point, the moratorium will likely end, and these tenants will owe a balloon payment of rent that, if they haven’t been working, are unlikely to be able to pay,” Nguyen said. “I think most people who are able to pay have been paying. Anyone who is severely financially distressed is not going to have any more ability to pay back rent then they do right now. I’m highly concerned about homelessness and exacerbating inequality for people who are already living on the margins.”

Ithaca Voice: Ribbon Cutting welcomes three new businesses downtown

Ithaca Voice: Ribbon Cutting welcomes three new businesses downtown

The first ribbon-cutting ceremony since the COVID-19 pandemic started was held in Downtown Ithaca to celebrate the openings of three new businesses. 

The ceremony was hosted by the Downtown Ithaca Alliance and included a representative from the City of Ithaca Common Council in Ducson Nguyen, alderperson for the 2nd Ward, and the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, with President and CEO Jennifer Tavares in attendence.

Shelterforce: Did Ithaca Really Cancel Rent?

Shelterforce: Did Ithaca Really Cancel Rent?

Ducson Nguyen, alderperson for Ithaca’s Second Ward, expressed skepticism that the state health department would approve the request, but maintained that the effort would pressure state legislators to enact more meaningful and effective action. “I’m hoping that even if the Department of Health doesn’t allow this, the New York state Senate and the state Assembly see this incredible need [and] that this crisis is looming.”

Nguyen, who introduced the resolution, agrees with McGonigal’s concerns regarding the city budget, but cites it as a reason to support rent cancellation. “The problem at the local level is that we don’t have much money. We have limited ability to borrow, unlike the federal or state government,” Nguyen says. “I say this as a homeowner and a landlord myself, that being able to own something is a huge privilege. . . . It’s incumbent on us to find a solution that works for the people who have less flexibility in that regard. Landlords will say that it’s not fair to take from me to give to someone else. And that’s why we’re attempting to ask the state to find a solution that lessens the impact on particularly smaller landlords.”

Next City: Will Ithaca’s #CancelRent Resolution Actually Cancel the Rent?

Next City: Will Ithaca’s #CancelRent Resolution Actually Cancel the Rent?

Ithaca Alderperson Ducson Nguyen, who sponsored the resolution, says it was only possible because of intense pressure from the Ithaca Tenants Union and its supporters. The group had initially asked for a change to the city code, Nguyen says, but members of the Common Council told them that it was almost certain to fail. Even the resolution requesting executive authority nearly failed, eventually passing by a vote of 6-4. Nguyen says he’s not holding out hope that the Department of Health will approve the request. 

“We were honest that it was a longshot, but it was a catalyst for other activism,” Nguyen says. “And [hopefully] it gets the state’s attention. Even if they turn us down, it is a clear sign that there’s a crisis.” 

In the event that the state does approve the request, Nguyen says, the mayor still won’t act unilaterally, but instead create a task force that would sort through the most effective ways to cancel rent debt for tenants while protecting small landlords from foreclosure in the process.

Ithaca Journal: Lime bikes won’t return to Ithaca, but here’s what could replace them

Ithaca Journal: Lime bikes won’t return to Ithaca, but here’s what could replace them

One Ithaca alderperson has voiced his hopes that the City of Ithaca will fund its own bike share program in the future.

“This is literally the worst year in the City of Ithaca’s history to say this, but the city has to fund a municipal bike share,” said Ducson Nguyen, alderperson for Ithaca’s Second Ward, in a post on Twitter.

Emergency Protection for Ithaca Renters and Small Landlords

Largely written by the Ithaca Tenants Union and modified by me, the mayor, and Alderperson Smith to ease its passage, I sponsored this legislation to request that New York State give us the power to cancel rents and prevent evictions and financial ruin.

Status: Passed June 3, 2020

WHEREAS the City of Ithaca has demonstrated its desire and commitment to be a leader in housing justice and social equity by recently passing resolutions creating:

  • An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 146 of the City of Ithaca Municipal Code entitled “Building Code Enforcement”, §146-9 entitled “Identification and Notification”
  • An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 258 of the City of Ithaca Municipal Code entitled “Rental Housing”, to add Article III entitled “Displaced Tenants”

and

WHEREAS the City of Ithaca has a significant tenant population; and

WHEREAS all residents of the City of Ithaca have the right to a stable, safe and affordable place to live; and

WHEREAS the rate of rent burden, defined as paying 30% or more of household income for rent, was already above 70% in Ithaca before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to 2018 Census data; and

WHEREAS the COVID-19 pandemic has now caused thousands of Ithaca residents to lose their jobs, rendering many incapable of paying rent; and

WHEREAS, on March 7, 2020, Governor Cuomo of New York State issued Executive Order Number 202, declaring a Statewide disaster emergency for the entire State of New York; and

WHEREAS the City of Ithaca deems itself morally obligated to protect its most disadvantaged residents from bearing the brunt of the economic risk from the COVID-19 pandemic; and

WHEREAS increased eviction rates in the City of Ithaca will undermine the realization of the Ithaca Green New Deal’s goal of achieving “a carbon neutral city by 2030,” by inciting rent burdened individuals to seek housing in cheaper areas further from the City, increasing urban sprawl and our dependence on single-use cars for commuting to work and commercial or recreational areas in the City; and

WHEREAS Governor Cuomo’s May 7, 2020 Executive Order Number 202.28 partially bars evictions through August 20, 2020, but does not prevent evictions over “just-cause” non-economic infractions, nor does it prevent the filing of any eviction proceedings or lawsuits after August 20, 2020, over alleged lease infractions that occurred during a COVID-19 eviction moratorium; and

WHEREAS the COVID-19 moratoriums established in the Governor’s Executive Orders 202 and 202.28 do not protect residential or small business tenants from the non-renewal of leases, or rent hikes during and following a moratorium; and

WHEREAS the State of New York has not yet acted to pass NY State Senate Bill S8125A, which would “act to suspend rent payments for certain residential tenants and small business commercial tenants and to suspend certain mortgage payments for ninety days in response to the outbreak of coronavirus”; and

WHEREAS the State of New York has not yet acted to pass NY State Senate Bill S2892B, “The Good Cause Eviction Bill,” which would, according §213, prohibit “landlords from taking any action to evict, fail to renew a lease, or otherwise seek to remove a tenant from housing accommodation except for good cause”; and

WHEREAS undocumented persons, the unemployed, and other vulnerable populations do not have access to the stimulus and unemployment benefits provided by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act; and

WHEREAS City of Ithaca Code §48-1 and §48-8 authorizes through the proceedings for Emergency Preparedness procedures for “rendering assistance to citizens within the City of Ithaca in the event of a disaster or emergency which exceeds the dimensions of any individual City Department’s current mandate for response,” such as in the case of the COVID-19 health and economic crisis; now, therefore be it

RESOLVED, That Common Council requests that the New York State Department of Health authorize  the Mayor to forgive via executive order three months of all residential and small-business rent payments and additional fees which are due through June 2020, and, for leases started on or after April 1st 2020, to forgive all rent payments and additional fees due through June 2020
, as determined by the payment schedule outlined in the original lease; and be it further

RESOLVED, That Common Council requests that the New York State Department of Health authorize  the Mayor to prohibit the eviction of residential and small-business tenants by executive order through June 2020; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the City of Ithaca calls upon renters who remain financially stable during the COVID-19 pandemic to maintain timely payment of rent; and be it further

RESOLVED, That Common Council requests that the New York State Department of Health authorize the Mayor to obligate landlords to offer  renters lease extensions at the current rate of rent during the duration of the declaration of emergency; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the City of Ithaca shall deliver the below letter to the Governor of New York State and the State Department of Health, to notify them of the City’s intentions to act;

“To Governor Cuomo and the New York State Department of Health:
We, the City of Ithaca, write to formally request the State Department of Health’s review of our City’s attached resolution to forgive the rent obligations of our residents, as well as the approval of our Mayor’s ability to invoke the resolution’s provisions immediately, per Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order 202.5. 
We cannot overstate the distress felt by our residents over the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ithaca is especially vulnerable to these effects: our economy relies nearly entirely on now-suspended higher education and Finger Lakes summer tourism, which are built on the backs of our robust service industry — where we have more restaurants per capita than any other city in the New York State. With consumers now in lockdown or largely outside the region for the foreseeable future, many of these businesses are now temporarily or permanently closed. Our working class is experiencing its highest rate of unemployment in nearly 100 years.
On April 1, 2020, the City of Ithaca’s Common Council unanimously passed a resolution requesting that rent and mortgage relief be instituted by the State government. Now, months later, with no such legislation having passed despite multiple bills being drafted, it is our position that State and Federal measures have been insufficient to protect tenants. Over two-thirds of Ithaca’s tenants were rent burdened before a single COVID-19 case appeared in New York. Now, countless more face excruciating uncertainty surrounding their ability to remain housed and financially stable once the unconditional eviction moratorium expires in just two weeks.
We understand it’s complicated — but respectfully, and especially considering our federal administration, the fallout of this economic crisis cannot wait patiently for deliberations over stimulus package options. Neither can our most vulnerable residents: many do not have access to unemployment benefits, and those who do have struggled to receive them.
In light of these acute pains and the absence of comprehensive State or Federal action, we declare our intent to use our own legislation to protect renters. We again request, with increased urgency, that the State of New York not only relieve rent in the rest of its municipalities, but that it also use its State powers to ease the distinct burdens of homeowners and small landlords, including mortgage payments — something no city can do on its own. 
The State does have the power to stop our emergency relief measure — but it also holds the sole power to complete it, by extending relief to homeowners and small landlords experiencing their own pressing and growing burdens.
In an era defined by necessary shelter-in-place orders, we implore the State of New York to prioritize the necessity, and defend the sanctuary, of the home.
Sincerely,The City of Ithaca”

The Cornell Daily Sun: ‘When Cornell Leaves, Our Business Goes Away’: Ithaca Businesses Brace for Impact of C.U.’s Move to Online Classes

The Cornell Daily Sun: ‘When Cornell Leaves, Our Business Goes Away’: Ithaca Businesses Brace for Impact of C.U.’s Move to Online Classes

Ducson Nguyen (D-2nd Ward), echoed the mayor’s calls for state and federal intervention on Twitter.

“The whole county will hurt, but I’ll be giving Collegetown businesses more love than usual for a while,” Nguyen wrote.

Ithaca Times: Can they keep dogs off the Commons?

Ithaca Times: Can they keep dogs off the Commons?

Ducson Nguyen, an alderperson for the Second Ward, of which the Commons is a part of, is in support of lifting the ban, even though he has said he’s more of a cat person.

“People bring dogs anyway and as far as I know, it’s rarely an issue,” Nguyen said. “Police officers have come before Council to tell us how much they dislike enforcing the ban. Who wants to tell a visiting family or a Commons resident they can’t pass through the heart of downtown with a dog? That said, while the ban is in effect, it should be enforced. That includes local business dogs popular on Instagram.”