En Español Know Your Rights
Source: Make the Road New York
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Pubs & Reports

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A report by the Communities for Housing Equity Coalition:

Asian Americans for Equality, CAAAV, Organizing Asian Communities, Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center, Make the Road by Walking, Neighbors Helping Neighbors, The New York Immigration Coalition, University Settlement Society of New York.

About this Report:

Strong housing code enforcement is necessary to ensure safe and healthy living conditions for all residents in New York City. However, without adequate, multi-lingual outreach and services from the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD), immigrant and limited English proficient (LEP) residents are unable to hold negligent landlords accountable and ensure lawful and safe housing conditions for themselves and their families.

Based on the findings from 697 surveys conducted between July 2005 and February 2006 with immigrant and LEP tenants, this report shows that immigrant and LEP New Yorkers are living in unhealthy and unsafe living conditions, and yet overwhelmingly do not know that there is a city agency, HPD, designed to help them address their housing needs.

• 60% of survey respondents reported living with one or more critical housing code violation(s) in the past 12 months.

• 62% of respondents did not know that there is a governmental agency, HPD, dedicated to meet the housing needs of New York residents.

Moreover, our research shows that immigrant communities are significantly under-accessing the important code enforcement housing services provided by HPD, and that, when they do, the lack of comprehensive and consistent language service provision presents barriers to effective service implementation and the timely correction of their housing problems.

Only 18% of survey respondents reported their housing problem to HPD.

• Almost half (43%) of those who did not file a complaint with HPD said that it was due either to a lack of knowledge about HPD, or because they did not speak English well enough and they did not feel comfortable asking someone to interpret or could not find an interpreter.

• Nearly half (46%) of those who did successfully file a complaint reported that written correspondence about their case was not translated into their primary language.

• Only 10% of those who had an inspector come to their apartment reported that he or she showed them the required language card to help identify language needs in order to connect them to HPD-contracted translation services.

Communities for Housing Equity’s startling survey findings confirm the necessity of the provision of multi-lingual services to ensure that all city residents are equally accessing critical government services. Providing equal access to government services is not only the right thing to do, it is mandated by federal, and in many cases, state and city, laws. Therefore, we call on Mayor Bloomberg, HPD Commissioner Shaun Donovan, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and other public officials to take the necessary administrative and legislative action to ensure that all New Yorkers are guaranteed access to the city’s critical housing services by ensuring appropriate outreach strategies, bilingual informational materials and correspondence, and most importantly, the adequate staffing of bilingual inspectors.

Writing and research support provided by the Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center.

Download PDF for full Report.