City Council Hears Testimony on Inclusionary Housing Transparency

Chair of the Committee on Housing and Buildings, Council Member Jumaane Williams. Image credit: NYCC/William Alatriste

City Council Committee heard testimony on legislation to codify reporting requirements for the Department of Housing Preservation and Development regarding inclusionary housing and affordable units. On June 19, 2017, the City Council’s Committee on Housing and Building held a hearing on a package of five bills. Four of the bills concerned the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s reporting requirements for affordable housing developments. The fifth bill concerned the definition of residency in the City’s lead abatement law.

Introduction 0305-2014, sponsored by Public Advocate Letitia James, would require HPD to report on the number of dwellings and dwelling units created or preserved through department programs. Introduction 0336-2014A, sponsored by Council Member Brad Lander, would require HPD to report on the location, source, and type of financial assistance provided for sites in the voluntary inclusionary housing program and the mandatory inclusionary housing program. The bill would also require the number of housing units at each location and the administering agent be reported.

Introduction 0942-2015A, sponsored by Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, would require HPD to report on housing development projects broken down by council district, including anticipated completion dates and the name of the developer and contractor. Introduction 1645-2017, sponsored by Council Member Donovan Richards, would require HPD to produce a quarterly report on the affordable housing fund and the mandatory inclusionary housing developments that fund it.

Introduction 1427-2017, sponsored by Council Member Daniel Dromm, would add to the Administrative Code an explicit definition to reside—“being present in a dwelling unit for 15 or more hours in a typical week.” Council Member Dromm introduced the legislation in response to a New York State Court of Appeals case which found that a landlord has no duty to remove lead paint from residences where children six-years or younger may spend time when the child does not live in the apartment. The Court found that a child spending in excess of 50 hours a week in an apartment did not trigger the landlord’s duty. Yaniveth R. v. LTD Realty Co., 27 N.Y.3d 186 (N.Y. Apr. 5, 2016). For CityLand’s coverage of that case, click here.

At the June 19th hearing Louise Carroll, Associate Commisioner for Housing Incentives at HPD, explained that HPD’s website already makes available much of the information that the legislation proposes to require. HPD’s Open Data site allows the public to perform searches for projects counted towards the Housing New York plan citywide. The site includes a project’s name, start date, completion date, building ID, location, prevailing wage, affordable units broken down by income, census tract, community board and council district. In October 2016, HPD also launched an interactive Inclusionary Housing Map which provides extensive information on inclusionary housing sites, including generating sites, compensating sites that receive floor area, and unused development floor area.

Carroll iterated HPD’s commitment to transparency and expressed the Department’s openness to codifying current reporting. Carroll did express concerns about the reporting time required against the fiscal year calendar. Carroll also explained that the Department and City Council had already agreed upon an annual report for the mandatory inclusionary housing fund and could not support Introduction 1645 for that reason.

Regarding the lead abatement law, Carroll cautioned that the law could have unintended consequences. The term is commonly considered to mean that the location is a person’s primary residence. Carroll testified that more consideration must be taken into how the expansion of the definition of “reside” would affect HPD’s current reporting, inspecting and resolution procedures.

Chair Jumaane Williams questioned why the agency would push back against codifying current practices. Carroll responded that much of the information already reported is either required through a previous local law, the Zoning Resolution or by other agreements with the City Council. Carroll also noted that this overlap may be due to the age of the bill—the bill was introduced in 2014.

Council Member Brad Lander thanked HPD for their efforts in compiling the information requested on the HPD website. Going forward Lander made suggestions to improve the site, including links to regulatory documents and distinguishing Mandatory Inclusionary Housing options.

Carroll, in response to Council Member Williams questioning, said that the definition of residency is “not today’s issue.” She explained that a question of defining residency does not come up often as HPD responds to all 311 calls regarding lead paint. HPD will only ask if a child under the age of 6 resides in the apartment, if yes the department will not ask follow up questions. If lead is found in an HPD inspections the landlord will have to cure the issue or HPD will. Carroll further noted that the law in issue in the Yaniveth case was in regards to a 1990s law that has since been substantially changed in 2004.

CC: Hearing held by Committee on Housing and Buildings (Intros. 0305-2014, 0336-2014A, 0942-2015A, 1645-2017 & 1427-2017) (June 19, 2017).

By: Jonathon Sizemore (Jonathon is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2016).

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