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New York attorney general discusses fair housing during Ithaca visit

Attorney General Letitia James met with residents in Ithaca Thursday.
Vaughn Golden
Attorney General Letitia James met with residents in Ithaca Thursday.

Attorney General Letitia James and her staff met with residents in the city of Ithaca Thursday as part of her series of "AG In Your Community" events.

The event was geared toward connecting residents with staff from the attorney general’s office who may be able to help them navigate a range of issues. This includes problems with employers, health care matters and consumer fraud, all areas her office fields complaints regarding.

But one significant area James points out in particular is housing. Her office receives many complaints about housing discrimination and landlord issues.

James said she would’ve liked the state legislature to do more on fair housing during its session, especially given a decision by New York’s highest court earlier this year to restrict good cause eviction policies. Such proposals revolve around limiting landlords’ ability to evict tenants and raise rent above a certain amount.

"We've had some bad decisions with respect to, as you know, good cause eviction,” James said. “So we're looking at a wide range of issues. One issue that I am focused on is right to counsel statewide. We have it in the city of New York, but we need to promote it statewide."

Right to counsel guarantees tenants are provided legal representation in an eviction proceeding.

The city of Ithaca is one of a number of municipalities in New York that’s debated implementing good cause eviction. But the proposal has been on hold after a court struck down similar policies for preempting state laws earlier this year.

James said she doesn’t think cities like Ithaca should abandon good cause completely. But she said they should keep working on other aspects of fair housing, as well as building more supply as state legislators consider other reforms.

Vaughn Golden has been reporting across New York since 2016. Working as a freelancer while studying journalism and economics at Ithaca College, Vaughn has reported for a number of outlets including the Albany Times Union, New York Post, and NPR among others. Prior to coming to WSKG full-time, Vaughn was a reporter for the Watertown Daily Times. Vaughn now covers government and politics for WSKG.