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Know Your Rights
Source: Jewish Political News & Updates
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Media Coverage

NY City Council Eyeing Stiffer Penalties For Bad Landlords, More Housing Preservation

The New York City Council’s Housing and Buildings Committee is set to consider two measures Wednesday that legislators say would strengthen Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pledge to preserve and construct 200,000 units of affordable housing over the course of the next decade, Capital NY reports.

The measures, introduced by Councilmen Ritchie Torres and Antonio Reynoso, are part of a package of legislation entitled the Quality Housing Act.

If they end up being passed, they would establish tougher penalties for those landlords in the city with the most building offenses, while also working to expand housing preservation. De Blasio’s affordable housing plan includes the purposeful preservation of 120,000 units and the building of 80,000 new units.

One of the proposed measures would give the Department of Housing Preservation and Development the power to expand its Alternative Enforcement Program, which catalogues the city’s most problem-plagued buildings based on the number of violations they have incurred. Furthermore, the number of buildings in the housing program would increase from 200 to 280, Capital New York reports.

According to affordable housing advocates, the expanded law will focus much needed attention on the state of chronic disrepair in the city’s stock of affordable housing.

Jose Lopez, who works as a lead organizer for Make the Road NY, a community advocacy group, contended that the bill will also force landlords to make repairs on their properties within a reasonable frame of time.

“The intent of the program is to identify the worst buildings with the worst violations across the five boroughs and have H.P.D. inspectors go in and tell the landlords they have four months to clear up the violation,” Lopez clarified, “and if they don’t, the city will send their workers to fix it and add the cost of that on top of the fines.”

Irania Sanchez, a rent-stabilized tenant who resides in Bushwick, will testify before the City Council today about the difficulties she had to endure after her building was sold and a new landlord began to push tenants out. Sanchez discloses that her new landlord began renovating five units in the building and went so far as to take out the boiler, even though she, her mother and two daughters were still living there.

The second bill that is under Council consideration today would expand another existing law and permit the city to charge a $200 inspection fee if landlords neglect to make repairs in their buildings after three inspections have been conducted. If a property is inspected three times and violations continue to be found, the offending landlords would be subject to the fee for each subsequent inspection until the repairs are made.

Councilman Torres described the measure as a “three strikes, you’re out” bill.

“Right now, if you call 311, H.P.D. comes and issues a notice of violation,” Torres informed Capital New York. “It’s a little like a parking ticket without a fine — the owner has no incentive to repair the condition, so the bill that I have would attach fees to that violation.”

“These are two of the toughest and strongest pieces of housing preservation legislation moving in the City Council right now,” Reynoso stated. “These bills will have a dramatic impact on holding landlords accountable and improving quality-of-life for low-income tenants.”

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