The New York City Council on Wednesday passed a package of 17 bills intended to protect tenants from landlord abuse. The legislation includes closing the so-called “Kushner loophole,” which had allowed landlords to file false paperwork with the city’s Department of Buildings. The bill comes a year after President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner’s family’s firm, Kushner Companies, was found to have falsely claimed it had no rent-regulated tenants in dozens of buildings it owned when it actually had hundreds.
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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.
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday launched an investigation into allegations of tenant harassment by Kushner Companies at the Austin Nichols House in Williamsburg. The announcement comes on the same day a group of 19 current and former residents of the building are set to file a $10 million lawsuit against the company for creating unlivable conditions from construction noise and dust and pushing them out to make room for condo buyers. The company, run by the family of Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner, purchased the 338-unit property at 184 Kent Avenue in 2015, and has since sold or emptied 75 percent of the rent-stabilized apartments, the Associated Press reported.
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Scoring a rent-stabilized apartment is a big win in New York City, as these regulated pads usually offer rent at below-market rates and provide tenants more protections against landlords. While more than 925,000 rent-stabilized apartments still exist in the city, these units turn over at a faster rate in certain neighborhoods than others, and their availability continues to dwindle (h/t WYNC). According to a new report by the city’s Independent Budget Office (IBO), the neighborhoods of Astoria, Morningside Heights and Bay Ridge all have high concentrations of rent-regulated housing built prior to 1974 and therefore, higher rates of turnover compared to other parts of the city.
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6sqft recently covered the practice of offering landlords “blacklists” of tenants who may have withheld rent or taken action against previous landlords. Now Quartz reports on the growing use of screening software services and surveillance technology that lets landlords know if prospective tenants have recently arrived from another country, what their social media profiles say about them and even how often they’ve been hitting the bars. Could high-tech data collection and surveillance tools become as dangerous to the diversity of communities as redlining was decades ago?
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In New York City there are currently about one million rent stabilized apartments–about 47 percent of the city’s rental units. So why is it so hard to snag one? What are the benefits of having one (other than affordable rent, of course)? According to the New York City Rent Guidelines Board nearly 250,000 rental units have lost the protections of rent regulation since 1994. Why are we “losing” so many of them?
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