BROOKLYN – Speaker Christine C. Quinn, together with Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Shaun Donovan, Housing and Buildings Committee Chair Erik Martin-Dilan, Council Members Letitia James, Gale Brewer and Diana Reyna and Make the Road New York Executive Director Andrew Friedman, today toured a building on Gates Avenue in Brooklyn that was rehabilitated after being selected for the Alternative Enforcement Program (AEP), a program that was enacted by the passage of the Safe Housing Act.
The Safe Housing Act was designed to improve housing conditions for New Yorkers living in the City’s worst buildings. The law requires the City to identify 200 buildings every year with the worst housing code violations and target them for aggressive inspection, follow-up and comprehensive repairs. HPD’s Division of Enforcement Services facilitates and monitors these City-mandated improvements and, on November 12, 2008, issued its second annual list of buildings that have been targeted to undergo the renovation efforts.
“Tenants who live in problem buildings need real fixes, not just patchwork solutions,” said Speaker Quinn. “By going in and making top to bottom repairs, we can drastically improve living conditions and preserve our City’s housing stock. A year after the Safe Housing Act went into affect, we are seeing real and lasting improvements to some of the City’s most problematic buildings.”
“For the past year, under the AEP, 200 buildings throughout the five boroughs have been undergoing the repairs necessary to ensure that their tenants enjoy the safe, quality housing that all New York City residents deserve,” said HPD Commissioner Donovan. “After a first highly successful year, on November 12, we notified an additional 200 New York City landlords that their buildings have been targeted and must be fixed to meet the standards established by the City’s Housing Maintenance Code. AEP adds a new tool to HPD’s broad and aggressive enforcement efforts and reaffirms our commitment to ensuring that all landlords meet their obligation to provide decent and safe housing for all tenants.”
Prior to the passage of the Safe Housing Act, when a residential building was in need of serious repairs, the City’s Emergency Repair Program (ERP) was charged with evaluating and addressing these problems. However, the ERP is limited in what conditions it is allowed to address and focused primarily on restoring services for tenants as rapidly as possible. Under the ERP, HPD is authorized to fix a leaking pipe; it is not authorized to replace the entire line in order to prevent future leaks, however.
The Safe Housing Act endowed HPD with the authority to more effectively address the problems of some of the City’s most distressed residential buildings by authorizing top to bottom repairs.
This legislation does the following:
· Authorizes HPD to identify 200 distressed buildings each year for participation in a program to target and improve the City’s worst buildings.
o Buildings are selected based upon the number of outstanding housing code violations, the ratio of violations to apartments and the ratio of outstanding emergency repair charges paid for by the City to the number of apartments.
· Requires owners to correct all violations directly related to providing heat and hot water and 80% of all other hazardous and immediately hazardous violations within four months of receiving notice from HPD that they have been chosen for the program.
o In addition, owners are required to pay any outstanding Emergency Repair charges and properly register with HPD.
o If the owner makes the needed repairs, the building will continue to be monitored by HPD at least every three months for at least a year, with special consideration given to buildings with immediately hazardous violations.
· Requires the owner, managing agent or other representative of a building in the program to take an HPD-approved training course in building management after repairs are completed.
· In cases where an owner fails to cooperate with the program, make necessary repairs, or meet other program obligations, requires HPD to perform a full building-wide inspection and top to bottom repairs at the owner’s expense.
o The inspections identify all violations of housing maintenance standards and their related underlying conditions.
o Repairs will then be made by an HPD selected contractor, and will be billed to the owner. HPD is required to closely monitor its contractor to ensure progress and the timely completion of repairs.
When in ERP, buildings are also subject to HPD’s broader code enforcement efforts. At various stages of the process, tenants and the local Council Member are informed of the status of the building and the progress being made towards restoring it to safe physical condition.
“One year ago, the City Council and HPD made a commitment to thousands of low-income New York families who were living in apartments riddled with the most severe housing code violations that no New Yorker should endure in their home,” said Executive Director of Make the Road New York, Andrew Friedman. “Today we see the fruit of that commitment – a renovated, safe building instead of the nightmarish hovel it used to be. This is just one of hundreds of buildings throughout the city that have benefited from the Safe Housing Act. Commissioner Donovan and Speaker Quinn deserve praise for standing up to the abusive, negligent landlords who have victimized too many for too long.”
“Tenants in my Bushwick district are suffering. I am proud that, with the Safe Housing Act, the City Council and HPD have improved living conditions for these tenants and many more across the city. Preserving vital affordable housing by holding landlords accountable for egregious violations and long term property neglect is just common sense,” said Council Member Diana Reyna.
“The Safe Housing Act gave HPD the authority it needs to make sure that no individual, that no family, has to live in deplorable conditions,” said Housing and Buildings Chair Erik Martin-Dilan. “Too often, we hear the horror stories of people living in these problem buildings. Now, we are seeing the results.”
“This bill grew out of a true need for reform of our city’s housing code,” said Council Member Letitia James. “Because of the Safe Housing Act, tenants in New York should know that help is on the way. This bill was designed to create a housing code enforcement policy that works for all of us, especially communities of color, immigrants, and seniors, who often suffer the worst housing conditions. I look forward to everything we can accomplish under the Safe Housing Act in the years to come.”
“When more than 10,000 tenants used the Targeted Cyclical Enforcement Policy (T-CEP) initiated by my office in 2004, I knew we needed to enact lasting change in the way buildings are maintained around our city. And now, a year after taking affect, the Safe Housing Act is delivering tangible results for New Yorkers who for too long lived in substandard housing,” said Council Member Gale Brewer. “At this building in Brooklyn and across our City, we are slowly but surely restoring invaluable units of affordable housing, so that they came be homes for working families and not hazards to those that live there.”
Under the Safe Housing Act, HPD also developed a process by which owners may certify the correction of violations electronically and by which they may independently and separately certify the correction of each violation. Previously, owners were only able to certify the correction of all violations listed on a single notice, and were often unable to certify individual corrections as they occurred. The change was intended to encourage a higher level of voluntary correction by owners and to result in more accurate HPD records.
For more information on AEP or to get a complete listing of all buildings that were selected for the program, go to: http://home2.nyc.gov/html/hpd/html/owners/aep.shtml