As former Chief of Staff for Mitchell-Lama Subcommittee Chair, Assemblyman Jonathan L. Bing, I know the current issues facing affordable housing. I had the opportunity to work on the next generation of progressive legislation that would scale certain rent regulations to the consumer price index, so that new laws are always current and housing remains affordable for generations to come. But there is more to do and as your City Council member I will continue this work by reforming rent regulation, using market indices like the consumer price index, and expanding affordable housing.
In addition to fixing affordable housing and rent regulation laws, we must also create a centralized affordable housing resource. Affordable housing must be transparent, with easily accessible and searchable lists by address and qualification, rather than having to search through over a dozen different programs and agencies. We must open affordable housing by creating an easy centralized application process. Lastly, the waiting lists for all affordable housing must be publicly available to provide accountability where these waiting lists have been previously abused.
Yesterday’s lawsuit against a company owned by Jared Kushner highlights the City of New York's obligation to ensure tenants are not being cheated by unscrupulous landlords. The allegations are yet more proof of a broken system that allows landlords to charge tenants more than they are legally allowed. After exhaustive research by ProPublica, it is estimated that 50,000-200,000 units in New York City may be illegally rented at market rate. This issue is one of the most serious problems in our fight for affordable housing and why I authored Introduction 1015.
Introduction 1015 requires all owners of any affordable units in New York City to register those units with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and disclose the monthly rent. That allows the City to track the locations of these units and verify they are being rented at or below the legally allowable rate and fine bad landlords who flout the law.
While State law requires landlords to register with the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, the penalties for non-compliance were removed in 1993. It is a law without teeth, unable to force or persuade landlords to comply.
I applaud Housing Rights Initiative for their thorough research into these properties. But it should not have taken over a month of painstaking efforts to find this information. It should be as easy as going to HPD’s website. More importantly, the City should be doing this proactively.
We’ve seen it in our districts. A new landlord takes ownership of a building and starts a construction project that never finishes in order to evict long-term residents. They may turn off the cooking gas indefinitely; they may even knock out the boiler with no explanation.
For too many New Yorkers, this nightmare is their reality. The stories are plentiful: heat and gas shutoffs in the middle of winter, jackhammering causing cracks in apartment walls, loss of power, and lead dust in the air lasting for months on end. For years, city and borough officials and community advocates have encountered a critical mass of stories like these, detailing the unscrupulous conduct of landlords as well as the insufficient response from the City of New York.