The City Council unanimously passed a bill yesterday to force major slumlords to clear up their numerous housing violations or ultimately face a city takeover of their properties.
The bill, which passed by a 47-to-0 vote, also has the backing of Mayor Bloomberg, who plans to sign it into law in a few weeks.
Sponsors and housing advocates hailed it as a "groundbreaking" enforcement mechanism to force compliance by landlords with housing code regulations, such as quickly fixing broken furnaces, elevators or correcting other unsafe or unhealthy conditions in apartment buildings.
"The Safe Housing Act will dramatically improve living conditions for New Yorkers residing in the city’s worst buildings," according to the Safe Housing Act Steering Committee, a coalition of housing, immigration and health groups (including Make the Road by Walking).
Essentially, the bill gives the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) expanded authority to inspect buildings with numerous pending violations and to make repairs itself if the landlords don’t fix up the buildings within four months.
The landlords would then be required to pay the city for the cost of the repairs – or face court-ordered loss of their properties.
A hit list of the top 200 offending landlords, based on the number of outstanding immediately hazardous or hazardous violations, will be targeted each year for the special enforcement.
The prime sponsor of the bill, Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Working Families Party, Brooklyn) said it will especially help protect poor tenants, seniors and immigrants with limited English ability.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) said the bill has the backing of the city’s main landlord group, the Rent Stabilization Association.
"The bill clearly in my mind is a … governmental full-court press against slumlords in the City of New York," Quinn commented. "And I hope the message this bill sends is that if you are a slumlord your days are numbered in the City of New York."