Boris Tsang/Sun File Photo

ITU representatives said Ithaca's housing crisis extends to students, citing a lack of affordable housing in Collegetown.

July 23, 2021

Ithaca Tenants Union and Solidarity Slate Join Regional Efforts Toward Housing Equity

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On July 12, the Ithaca Tenants Union announced their collaboration with the Solidarity Slate on the Right to Renew campaign, which urges the Ithaca Common Council to adopt their proposed measures for Good Cause Eviction — requiring landlords to have justified reasons for not renewing a tenant’s lease. 

Solidarity Slate is an organization born out of Ithaca Tenants Union and Ithaca Democratic Socialists of America that works toward selecting candidates who support social equity and justice for Ithaca Common Council. 

The ITU, a local solidarity organization that also advocates for tenants’ rights, joins groups like Housing Justice for All, which organizes for equitable housing across New York State, as evictions and housing insecurity disproportionately impact Black and LGBTQ+ communities.

“It is not unwarranted to say we have a housing crisis here in Ithaca,” representatives for ITU wrote in an email to The Sun. “More and more, poor people, working class people, particularly Black people, are being pushed to the outskirts of town.”

And in a city where around 70 percent of the housing market is composed of renters, these concerns also extend to college students, said Jorge DeFendini ’22, the Solidarity Slate’s candidate for the fourth ward of Ithaca, which includes Collegetown. 

“[For Cornell University and Ithaca College students], trying to find housing in Collegetown in many ways feels like trying to win the lottery,” DeFendini said.

Drawing from his peers’ experiences, DeFendini said that college students are often afraid to call their landlord and complain about repairs for fear of getting evicted. Now, he said he believes the bill is a step in the right direction.

“I feel like with this bill passed, there’s going to be a lot less housing insecurity among college students,” DeFendini said. “I genuinely think that will help foster a lot more community, because college students will have some more stability and be able to plant stronger roots in the community.” 

These efforts were sparked after the New York State Senator Julia Salazar’s (D-18th District) Good Cause Eviction bill failed to pass at the state level, which urged the state to provide federal and state funding for New Yorkers struggling with housing costs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the Ithaca Tenants Union works to address housing inequities locally, the ITU said they face several barriers in their organizing work. From legislators who value the wants of landlords over the protection of tenants to real estate lobbyists in Ithaca, ITU said they worried they will need to water down their proposed bill: “It will be ineffective in achieving what it’s made for,” the ITU wrote.

However, the recent victory of Albany organizers in passing their own Good Cause Eviction law has set a promising precedent for the efforts in Ithaca. 

“Housing policy is usually made by people who see it as an investment,” the Ithaca Tenants Union wrote, “not by people who are one emergency expense away from becoming houseless.”  

The ITU and Solidarity Slate said they hope that the Right to Renew campaign will shift power from landlords to tenants, creating a more equitable relationship between them.

“Passing Right to Renew will prevent the most common methods of carrying out this displacement and protect people from unaffordable rent increases, keeping communities, families, and careers intact,” ITU wrote.