Housing and energy are basic human rights. In New York, these two necessities have been co-opted by bad actors to become for-profit commodities. The real estate industry and the fossil fuel industry both make billions of dollars for their investors by extracting wealth from our communities, poisoning our air, and displacing those who cannot afford ever-rising costs.
In New York, profit-motivated landlords have increased rents to record-breaking levels, outpacing wages and leaving a record number of people struggling to make ends meet. In Manhattan, the average rent for an apartment has reached a record high of $5,588 a month. Eviction rates have reached pre-COVID levels and over 50 percent of New Yorkers are rent burdened, meaning they spend over 30 percent of their income on rent. Across the state, 1.5 million households have no tenant protections from retaliatory or discriminatory evictions or unreasonable rent hikes. Meanwhile, 1.86 million households in New York City pay over 6 percent (with some households paying up to 25 percent) of their monthly income on utility bills, and more than 1.2 million are behind on utility payments. This forces families to make the impossible decision between paying rent, the utility bill, or getting food on the table. Meanwhile, utility companies in New York continue to increase the cost of energy, and use our money to subsidize the construction of more fossil fuel pipelines that pollute our neighborhoods and harm our health. Last year alone, Con Edison increased utility bills by 14 percent, despite increasing shareholder profits by 16 percent the year before.
The laws in place allow these bad actors to continue to exploit our communities at the benefit of their bottom line. But it doesn’t have to be this way. New Yorkers should not have to struggle to pay their rent and utility bills every month while landlords and utility companies continue to get richer. We can demand a better future for New Yorkers where residents have the security to know they can afford to stay in their homes and communities. Housing and energy are both basic human rights, and it’s time we start treating them as such.
WE ACT for Environmental Justice has launched the Our Homes Under Our Control Campaign, calling on state legislators and the Governor to pass legislation that will lower rent and utility bills for everyday New Yorkers, stop subsidizing the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure, and give renters more tenant protections and democratic control over their homes and communities.
Key legislation in the Our Homes Under Our Control Campaign:
NY HEAT Act
The NY HEAT Act would cap energy bills at 6 percent of a household’s income, which could save families that are overburdened by utility costs up to $75/month. The legislation would also stop allowing utility companies to charge the public to build out fossil fuel infrastructure that is polluting our planet, costing us hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and will quickly become obsolete as our state moves forward on its emission reduction goals.
Learn more about NY HEAT here.
Universal Rent Control
Universal Rent Control is a series of bills that would expand access to rent stabilization and tenant protections, like good cause eviction, across the state. If these bills are passed, ALL New Yorkers would have stronger protections against evictions and unfair rent increases, and more buildings would be eligible for rent stabilization so all renters can enjoy the stability of predetermined rent increases, the right to a lease renewal, and democratically controlled housing.
Universal Rent Control is an evolving campaign. Learn more about Good Cause Eviction here.
Interested in learning more about this campaign and how you can get involved? Join us for a teach-in on Thursday, March 7 from 6:00 – 7:30 pm at Buunni Coffee, located at 4961 Broadway in Inwood! RSVP Here