Council Committee Hears Testimony on Quality Housing Act

Council Member Antonio Reynoso introduced legislation to expand HPD's Alternative Enforcement Program.  Image credit:  William Alatriste, New York City Council

Council Member Antonio Reynoso introduced legislation to expand HPD’s Alternative Enforcement Program. Image credit: William Alatriste, New York City Council

Proposed laws would expand the Alternative Enforcement Program and impose new fines on repeatedly-cited landlords. On October 1, 2014 the City Council Committee on Housing and Buildings held a public hearing on Intro 345-A and Intro 348-A, collectively known as the Quality Housing Act. The bills are sponsored by Council Member Antonio Reynoso and Council Member Ritchie Torres respectively, and seek to improve the quality of maintenance of New York City apartments.

Intro 345-A, sponsored by Council Member Reynoso, would modify the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s Alternative Enforcement Program. The program, established in 2007 and amended in 2011, was designed for HPD to identify multiple buildings in advanced disrepair and see violations corrected quicker than through litigation or hiring contractors. The Program requires a landlord to certify the violations have been corrected within four months of designation, or pay for repairs made by HPD on the landlord’s behalf. If the landlord does not pay, the charges can be sold by the City as a tax lien. Every year, HPD designates up to two hundred buildings for the program by criteria including how many Class B and Class C violations the building accrued over the year and how much HPD spent on emergency repairs for that building. Under the proposed law, HPD would have to designate two hundred and eighty buildings a year, with the option of more as funding permits. HPD would also get the authority to amend the criteria by which buildings are designated for the program.

Intro 348-A, sponsored by Council Member Torres, would impose a new fee on landlords who are repeatedly issued violations by HPD. Referred to as the “three strikes” rule, if a landlord has three uncorrected Class B or C violations over a twelve-month period, HPD will assess a two hundred dollar fee on the landlord for each subsequent B or C violation in that period. Buildings placed in the Alternative Enforcement Program will not be liable for the new fees.

During the public hearing, HPD Deputy Commissioner for Enforcement and Neighborhood Services Vito Mustaciuolo testified in support of the proposed legislation as a means for the City to recover public expenditures, but expressed concerns. The commissioner testified that HPD does not have the resources to handle an additional eighty buildings a year through the Alternative Enforcement Program, stating that at most the department could handle an extra fifty. The commissioner explained that although the Council increased funding for AEP in the latest budget, it was a one-time increase. If HPD was required to take on an additional eighty buildings and funding was not renewed, HPD would have to cut services elsewhere to meet the new mandate.

During questioning, Council Member Reynoso asked if money from AEP repair charges or lien sales go towards funding the program. Commissioner Mustaciuolo testified they do not, and that all monies taken in through AEP go to the City’s general fund. Council Member Torres, speaking on his bill, asked about the viability of charging a higher fee for violations during heating season, reflecting the higher demand on HPD resources than during the off-season. The commissioner agreed to examine whether there would be justification for the split and report back to the Council Member.

Council Member Reynoso’s Communications Director Lacey Tauber told CityLand that the Council Member is meeting with the Office of Management and Budget to determine the feasibility of funding the Alternative Enforcement Program with monies recouped through the program in order to make it more self-sustainable. “We’re working with the administration to figure out our next steps, and we hope to pass these bills quickly.”

City Council: Public Hearing Int 0345-2014, Int 0348-2014 (Oct. 01, 2014).

By: Michael Twomey (Michael is a CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2014.)

One thought on “Council Committee Hears Testimony on Quality Housing Act

  1. NYC’ still #1 T+L’s “America’s Dirtiest City” for illegal, widespread littering and dumping on sidewalks, streets, train tracks, and public spaces. The City Council needs to join the 21st Century and get QUALITY on its mind; stop their anti-Green embarrassment to America,and thousands of U.S. Cities who diligently keep their spaces clean and OBEY/RESPECT THE LAW!

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