Council Prioritizes Funding Increase To Strengthen Illegal Hotel Enforcement

NEW YORK: Yesterday, the New York City Council released the official FY 2016 preliminary budget response priorities, which calls for a $2 million funding increase for the Office of Special Enforcement's (OSE) budget, for a total of $3.6 million to strengthen enforcement of illegal hotels. The list of priority budget recommendations outlines that the increased funding would be used to hire 25 additional staff, expanding upon its current 11-person staff, to support a more proactive and robust enforcement operation. Additionally, the budget response calls on the Administration to involve other ticketing agencies, and increase transparency in OSE budgeting by providing a clear and complete description of OSE's budget and staffing.

Council's Response To The Mayor's Fiscal 2016 Preliminary Budget (page 57):

Increase Funding for the Office of Special Enforcement

The Council calls upon the Administration to add $2 million to the Office of Special Enforcement's (OSE) budget to hire 25 additional staff. The Fiscal 2016 budget for the OSE totals $1,647,000. OSE has 11 staff members deployed from agencies, such as the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ), NYPD, the Law Department, DOB, the Fire Department (FDNY), and the Department of Finance (DOF). The additional funding will bring OSE's total budget to $3.6 million. In addition, the funding will strengthen OSE's operations by increasing staff at each agency and involving other ticketing agencies, such as the Department of Sanitation (DSNY), DOHMH, and DCA, for a more proactive, rather than reactive, approach to enforcement. The Administration should ensure that the City's budget provides a clear and complete description of OSE's budget and headcount. This could be accomplished by creating a budget code for OSE within each agency.


The Council's official budget response follows an announcement last month by Council Members calling for a $2 million funding increase, as well as operational reforms to OSE for a more proactive and strategic approach to enforcement.


"New York City is in a housing crisis exacerbated by home-sharing websites like Airbnb that account for more than 14,000 illegal rentals in the five boroughs. This is a fundamental problem not just in New York City but across the country that has skyrocketed in recent years. As Chair of the Council's Housing and Buildings Committee, I firmly believe that the Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement should be expanded and increased so we can better combat bad acting landlords from taking affordable units off the market, so I am proud this was including in our FY2016 Preliminary Budget Response. By beefing up the OSE, we will ultimately ensure the Mayor's Housing Plan does not fall short of its 200,000 unit goal and that New York City remains affordable for all," said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn).


"The Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement (OSE) does a tremendous job responding to 311 complaints about illegal hotel activity. An additional two million dollars would go a long way towards giving the OSE the tools it needs to proactively go after those who illegally rent out their apartments on Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms. I am grateful to Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras for their leadership on this urgent issue," said Council Member Helen Rosenthal (D-Manhattan).


"I applaud the Speaker and Finance Chair for taking this strong first step to crackdown on illegal commercial hotel operators by proposing a significant increase in funds for the Office of Special Enforcement (OSE).  Despite whatever claims Airbnb has made that resident hosts are the majority of rental listings, this is 100 percent false. Commercial users disproportionately control the share of rentals on market sites, making up 6 percent of site users while controlling 36 percent of units. These operators will continue to disregard the law unless they know that they will be held accountable, and I'm proud to be part of a citywide coalition of legislators and activists working to ensure this funding is included in the final budget," said Council Member Mark Levine (D-Manhattan).


"I want to thank Speaker Mark-Viverito and Finance Chair Ferreras for prioritizing the OSE in the City's budget. Illegal hotels are having a major impact on availability of affordable housing, particularly in gentrifying districts like mine. The increased budget for this office will help facilitate a coordinated response to crack down on this problem, which would otherwise only continue to get worse," said Council Member Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn).


"The Office of Special Enforcement must be empowered to take a proactive stance towards increasingly common illegal hotels. Investing in OSE so they can protect New Yorkers and crack down on unsafe, illegal hotels that make our city less affordable has been a top priority of the progressive caucus. This is a solid first step towards ensuring OSE gets the funds they need," said Council Member Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan).


"An appropriately funded OSE will be able to do proactive work to root out bad actors that are reducing the supply of affordable housing in our city through illegal rentals, without harming legitimate bed & breakfasts. I'm extremely pleased that Council's budget response recognizes this work as a priority and offer my thanks to Speaker Mark-Viverito and Council Member Ferreras," said Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. (D-Brooklyn).


"Recognizing the critical need for a budget increase for the Office of Special Enforcement, my colleagues and I included a call upon the Administration to do so in our Budget Response we put out yesterday. If implemented, the $2 million budgetary addition would increase the OSE's staff from 11 to 36. This would undoubtedly bring a much needed enhancement to OSE's inter-agency operations and ensure that important enforcement issues, such as the operation of illegal hotels across the City, are receiving the attention they deserve," said Council Member Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan).



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