This is a letter to the editor written by organizer and Ithaca Tenants Union member Angel DeVivo, who works with legal services to help tenants navigate eviction court. It was not written by The Ithaca Voice. To submit letters to the editor, please send them to Matt Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last November, I sat in a living room with my neighbors, ready to speak at Ithaca’s virtual planning committee in support of a bill that would help prevent arbitrary and discriminatory evictions. Dozens of community members made our cases for why we need this vital legislation, describing their lived experiences with housing discrimination, disrepair and predatory rent hikes.
Sitting next to me that night was a new friend — a mother whose rent had just been raised $800 a month. If Ithaca passed this increasingly common legislation locally, she would have more power to remain in her home, or at least negotiate for what she needs to move. But after hours of tenants and legal advocates expressing their support for the bill, what was the response from the appointed 4th Ward Alderperson? “I have not given this the time and attention it needs.”
He abstained from the tie-breaking vote and pushed to table the legislation. Alderperson Patrick Mehler has since doubled down on his decision. How are tenants, who make up 70% of Ithacans, supposed to exist in our community when our basic need of shelter is constantly at risk? And how can we put faith in our representatives when we organize to be heard, and are ignored entirely?
There are currently 42 active eviction cases in Ithaca city court. Our representatives’ inaction has real consequences for Ithacans as we live in a crisis of housing stability, affordability and accessibility. If our legislators cannot find it within themselves to give the time and attention needed to make housing stability possible, we need different legislators. Ithaca’s 4th ward has a failed legislator — but there’s a better choice in Tiffany Kumar.
Tiffany Chen Kumar is a powerful advocate for housing justice running for Common Council in the 4th Ward. Kumar has shown up for tenants facing eviction at City Court and knows firsthand that Ithaca needs proactive tenancy legislation. She explicitly supports Good Cause protections, a right to counsel and a right to seek repairs. We need representatives who will bring us toward a world where everyone has a safe and stable place to live- Tiffany will not hesitate to listen to tenant constituents and enact necessary change.