Legislation Proposed For Online List of All Affordable Apartments

Councilmember Ben Kallos. Image credit: William Alatriste/NYC Council

Councilmember Ben Kallos. Image credit: William Alatriste/NYC Council

Bill would require all landlords of affordable apartments to publicly list their properties through the portal.  At the City Council stated meeting on Monday, December 7, 2015 Council Member Ben Kallos introduced Intro 1015, a proposed law that would require property owners that receive tax credits in exchange for building affordable housing units to publicly list those units in an online portal.  The bill is co-sponsored by Council Members Jumaane Williams and Rosie Mendez and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

The bill was prompted by a ProPublica investigation that found 15,000 buildings receiving property tax reductions in New York City as a condition for building affordable units had illegally failed to register with New York State’s Division of Housing and Community Renewal.  In 1993 the state eliminated penalties for failing to register with DHCR, allowing building owners to ignore the registration requirements and charging illegally high rents with no consequence.  The City Department of Finance stated over $1 billion of developer incentives were issued through the 421-a and J-51 affordable housing programs in fiscal year 2015 alone.

The bill would require owners of rent-regulated or affordable housing receiving government subsidy to annually register each unit with a publicly-accessible online City database.  Failure to register would result in monthly penalties beginning at $100 per unit escalating to $2,000 per unit.  The bill also provides for a private right of action for individuals.

Tenants would be able to access the database to verify whether their charged rent is legal for their particular unit, research the rent history of an apartment, and access manager and superintendent information filed under the housing maintenance code.  The portal would also offer a single online application for residents to apply for all open affordable housing units based on their financial and household information and permit tracking of the lottery process and waitlists for affordable units.

In a statement, Council Member Kallos emphasized the need to prevent hiding even one unit of affordable housing.  “If we’re going to give away billions of dollars in incentives and property tax reductions to developers in exchange for building affordable units, we need to know where every single one of those units is and ensure struggling New Yorkers have the tools to find, apply and get affordable housing.”  Borough President Brewer praised the overdue nature for a central information portal.  “In 2015, there’s no reason this information should be scattered among a hodgepodge of websites and PDF flyers, or for affordable units to go unregistered and unpublicized because of a lack of accountability.”

The bill has been referred to the Council Committee on Housing and Buildings for hearing at a later date.

City Council: Int 1015-2015 (Dec. 7, 2015).

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

One thought on “Legislation Proposed For Online List of All Affordable Apartments

  1. Three cheers for Ben Kallos! I trust the law-breaking developers will be fined retroactively for their abuse of the tax abatement? Oh right, REBNY owns the process…

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