CITY'S HOUSING DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCES RESULTS FOR TENANTS THANKS TO INNOVATIVE BUILDING INSPECTION PROGRAM.
Problem Buildings Targeted for "Roof-to-Cellar" Inspections
The City's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) today announced that an initiative the agency started with the City Council and local community groups to identify some of the most distressed buildings in each council district is producing results for tenants. Since the program launched in the summer of 2005 HPD has inspected 229 buildings, with a total of 3,637 units, in nine council districts across the city. HPD is conducting comprehensive roof-to-cellar inspections of the identified problem buildings. The initiative is called the Targeted Cyclical Enforcement Policy (T-CEP) and HPD is working with all council members to conduct inspections in their districts over the course of three years.
In the 229 buildings inspected, HPD has issued 11,532 violations of the Housing Maintenance Code and removed 6,777 violations that were on record but had been already corrected. Eighteen buildings have been referred to HPD's Housing Litigation Division. A further 18 were in litigation before the T-CEP inspections began. In 30 buildings the owners have signed a Voluntary Repair Agreement with a specific list of repairs and a timetable for those repairs to be made.
Housing Commissioner Shaun Donovan said, "HPD is committed to ensuring that all New Yorkers live in safe and well-maintained housing. This innovative collaboration with the City Council and community groups is helping us to target some of the most troublesome buildings in the City in a comprehensive way, covering neighborhoods across the city. Landlords who refuse to fix their buildings face legal action, fines and even jail time. Maintaining and preserving our existing housing stock is a key part of Mayor Bloomberg's New Housing Marketplace Plan to fund the construction and rehabilitation of 165,000 units over ten years."
The T-CEP initiative provides for the comprehensive inspection of up to 400 housing units in 30 buildings in each council district. HPD inspects the residences, working with council members and community groups to ensure access to as many apartments and other areas of the building as possible. After writing up a Building Violation Summary, HPD refers issues that are not violations of the Housing Maintenance Code but are considered problematic to the appropriate government agency. An HPD team then meets - taking into account input from Council Members and community groups - to discuss appropriate action. These actions can include Voluntary Repair Agreements with building owners, suggesting appropriate HPD housing education classes, to commencing litigation. HPD continues to follow up with the building owners until sufficient progress is made, or until the case is referred for litigation if owners are non-responsive.
HPD has over 400 housing inspectors. 231 are bi-lingual speaking 30 languages. 89 are fluent in Spanish. Last year (Fiscal Year 2005) HPD issued 482,674 housing maintenance code violations and 494,865 violations were corrected. HPD has almost 40 attorneys in its Housing Litigation Division. Last year (FY 2005) they initiated 12,662 cases and collected $3,633,922 in judgments and settlements. In April 2006 HPD's attorneys were successful in obtaining 12 days of jail time for notorious landlord Olufemi Falade.
HPD's work is having an impact and the overall picture for New York City tenants is improving. Since the introduction of 311 tenants have been able to report building problems more easily and the number of violations issued and corrected have increased significantly. In Fiscal Year 2002, before 311 was started, 375,781 violations were removed. In FY 2005 494,865 violations were removed and more violations were removed than issued. The recently released Housing and Vacancy Survey (HVS) showed that neighborhood quality was the best in the 27-year period since the HVS started covering it. The proportion of renter households that rated the quality of their neighborhood as "good" or "excellent" was 71.3 percent in 2005, a 2.2-percentage point improvement from 2002 and the best in the 27-year period, since the HVS began to measure household opinion of neighborhood quality in 1978.
Every landlord in New York City has a legal obligation to maintain their buildings in good repair and up to Code. Tenants have rights and are entitled to essential services. If their landlords are not correcting apartment maintenance problems, then tenants should notify the City by calling 311 and bring cases against their landlords in Housing Court. Tenants do not need a lawyer to do so. They will use the Housing Maintenance Code violations as evidence in Housing Court. When a landlord can't or won't restore essential services, the City will make the emergency repairs and bill the building owner for the cost of the repairs and put a tax lien on his property if he doesn't pay.
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The Department of Housing Preservation and Development's mission is to promote quality housing and viable neighborhoods for New Yorkers. The department is the nation's largest municipal housing development agency and is implementing Mayor Bloomberg's New Housing Marketplace Plan to build and preserve 165,000 units of affordable housing over ten years. The New Housing Marketplace Plan is the largest municipal affordable housing effort in the nation's history. HPD also encourages the preservation of affordable housing through education, outreach, loan programs and enforcement of housing quality standards.