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Tenants defend themselves against rising rents in the US

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Before the start of each month, Anh-Thu Nguyen and her two roommates send their rent checks to the landlord, but a few days later they get them back in the mail.

The strange ritual began shortly after in March 2021 a real estate company called Greenbrook Partners bought the building brooklyn where Nguyen lives. The firm told residents they had to vacate their apartments by June 30.

Some neighbors moved out, but Nguyen and tenants of four other apartments sued Greenbrook, with more than 150 properties in Brooklyn and Queens, New Yorkmostly purchased during the pandemic.

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“This has been my home for over 13 years. It is a wonderful community and I want to stay here, it is also the right thing to do”said Nguyen, 39, a lawyer who works in labor organizing for an NGO.

This battle comes as rising rents come on top of rising inflation in the United States, with similar experiences becoming more frequent in the unregulated portion of the New York housing market seeking increases of 30% or more.

“The market has recovered, causing rent increases and contract renewals that are really burdensome for tenants”Held Charles McNallydirector of external affairs at the Furman Centera New York University urban policy research organization.

“Not optimal tenant”

At an event organized in February by Senate Democrats, Nguyen said that firms such as Greenbook, one of the leading players in this situation, considered it a “non-optimal tenant”.

“Your goal is to maximize your profits, not the stability that comes with a long-term tenant”he indicated before the panel.

Housing experts explained to the senators that a list of fictitious companies and subsidiaries that change frequently and that appear in the official documents of property put obstacles to the rendering of accounts of the tenants.

Defenders of real estate companies argue that restrictions on homeowners can discourage needed investment and that the industry is becoming a scapegoat for the housing affordability problem.

“Eviction for good cause”

Along the way, Greenbrook tenants have garnered the support of prominent New York politicians, including the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumerand the state senator Jabari Brisport.

Brisport led a rally last month in Brooklyn in support of legislation “eviction for good cause”which would limit these cases to those where tenants don’t pay rent or behave badly.

The bill, which Nguyen and other activists support, would also limit rent increases for apartments with market-based contracts.

Meanwhile, many in the real estate market oppose it, such as Bryan Liff, who put two apartments up for sale before risking leasing them under such a bill.

“I am not willing to take the risk that the state basically gives away our property”considered this 50-year-old software engineer.

Greenbrook and its affiliates own 153 properties, according to a New York City real estate database. The dwellings currently appear under the name of “Freestone Property Group”after having appeared under the name of Greg Fourniera Greenbrook principal.

Nguyen believes that Freestone is an affiliate of Greenbrook. Greenbrook Partners has not responded to multiple questions from AFP.

Source: Gestion

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