De Blasio creates new office to protect NYC tenants from landlord abuse

Posted On Fri, January 11, 2019 By

Posted On Fri, January 11, 2019 By In Policy

Via Pexels

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday created a new city office to protect tenants from landlord abuse. During his State of the City address, de Blasio signed an executive order to form the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants, which will lead the city’s anti-harassment and outreach initiatives across multiple agencies. The mayor warned that the “city’s worst landlords will have a new sheriff to fear,” referring to the new oversight office.

According to the mayor, the city is pursuing a new law that allows them to seize up to 40 of the most troubled buildings with multiple units annually and transition them to a community profit that “will treat tenants with the respect they deserve.”

“We’ll use every tool we have,” de Blasio said during his speech. “We’ll find the landlords. We’ll penalize the landlords. But if the fines and the penalties don’t cut it, we will seize their buildings.”

Seizing properties from negligent landlords would not be a new initiative. A program, known as the third-party transfer program, already exists and takes over properties because of back taxes. Council Member Robert Cornegy, who chairs the council’s housing committee, expressed concern over the plan to expand the program. According to Cornegy, last year the home of a black senior was valued at $2 million but transferred for an unpaid municipal debt of just $3,000, which turned out to be a record-keeping error by the city.

“After my experience with last year’s transfer of over sixty properties through TPT, I have serious doubts about the administration’s ability to competently identify ‘distressed’ properties,” Cornegy said in a press release. “While I support the goal of improving protections for tenants, I cannot support expanding a policy that has already proven deeply problematic for black and brown homeowners.”

If a landlord attempts to push out tenants by making the home unlivable, the mayor said a team of inspectors and law enforcement agents will be sent to stop it. The city is also looking for local and state legislation that would increase the fines against landlords.

The Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD), an affordable housing nonprofit, tweeted their support of the new office. “Preventing displacement and keeping tenants in their homes is the clearest way to address the affordability crisis,” ANHD tweeted Thursday.

A similar office was created by the City Council last year, called the Office of the Tenant Advocate, but the de Blasio administration has not yet funded it, as the Daily News reported.

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