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NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Eric Bederman (HPD) 212-863-5176


HPD COMMISSIONER WAMBUA, COUNCIL SPEAKER QUINN CELEBRATE SUCCESS OF PROACTIVE PRESERVATION INITIATIVE AND ANNOUNCE PUBLICATION OF THE SECOND AT-RISK BUILDINGS LIST

643 Buildings Are Surveyed; 18 Buildings Discharged; 134 Buildings On Latest At-Risk List 

View the Updated “At-Risk” Buildings List and Learn More about the Proactive Preservation Initiative at http://www.nyc.gov/html/hpd/html/owners/Proactive-Preservation.shtml  

New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Mathew M. Wambua and City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn announced the results to date of HPD’s Proactive Preservation Initiative (PPI) along with the addition of 134 buildings to the second PPI “At-Risk” buildings list. PPI is the City’s comprehensive approach to identify multifamily buildings in deteriorating physical condition and to hold their owners accountable for bringing the properties back into good repair before their condition endangers the health and safety of residents, and threatens the quality of the surrounding neighborhood and the viability of the building itself. Since PPI was rolled out last year, 18 buildings have been discharged because either their owners reduced the number of outstanding Housing Maintenance Code (HMC) violations by more than 80 percent or their litigation case was closed. The updated At-Risk list being published today includes 39 buildings that remain on the original list plus 95 newly identified buildings. 

The PPI was first announced in January 2011 by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and former HPD Commissioner Rafael E. Cestero at Our Lady of Angels School on Webb Avenue in the Bronx, near 2785 Sedgwick Avenue, one of the 10 buildings of the Milbank housing complex that were among the first to be targeted and are being rehabilitated as a result of the initiative. PPI is designed to target critical resources more effectively, reduce the need to spend City funds on emergency repair work, and help to ensure that tenants won’t see their buildings end up as some of the worst in the City. The owners of buildings identified through PPI and placed on the At-Risk list have had a 45-day period to remove HMC violations in order to show improvements in their buildings. 

“Identifying and getting into buildings before they hit a severe level of distress is critical to protecting our tenants and the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert K. Steel. “Holding owners accountable and stopping decline at an early stage, simply put, saves the City and taxpayers money that would likely have to be spent to stabilize these buildings later down the road. The preservation and long-term health of our multifamily housing stock is vital to keeping New York City livable and sustainable. It is also a financially smart thing to do. Pointing out problems and encouraging owners to take responsibility for the conditions within their buildings saves the City money, time and effort, and most important, keeps people in their homes." 

“Looking at the numbers alone, we can say that PPI is bringing us great results,” said HPD Commissioner Wambua. “But there’s more to it than that—our Proactive Initiative is a holistic approach to getting buildings back on a healthy track and to encourage their owners to act responsibly to avoid the sort of systemic distress that leads to disinvestment and decay. We know now that the community of building owners is watching what we are doing and watching carefully, because they are coming to us to ask for help or to let us know that they will do whatever it takes to stay off the At-Risk list. This result is difficult to quantify, but nonetheless, I am confident that with this initiative we are reaching deep into communities and helping tenants enjoy a better quality of service from their landlords. I thank Speaker Quinn for her strong leadership and her commitment to improving housing conditions and opportunities for all New Yorkers.” 

“We learned valuable lessons from Ocelot, Milbank and all of the overleveraged portfolios we’ve worked on, among them that we need to be proactive in tracking and requiring repairs in bad buildings,” said City Council Speaker Christine C.  Quinn. “The Proactive Preservation Initiative, along with the Council’s  recently passed foreclosure notification legislation, is allowing the city to catch buildings before they fall into complete disrepair and find ones that are distressed when we otherwise would not have and is an important tool in ensuring that tenants have safe and livable housing.” 

Under the PPI, HPD plans to survey approximately 250 buildings identified as possibly distressed every six months. In the first year of the initiative HPD exceeded this goal by surveying well over 500 buildings. Of that total, 152 buildings exhibited levels of distress that warranted intervention either through roof-to-cellar inspections or by a direct referral to HPD’s Housing Litigation Division (HLD) because conditions were already at a critical level of distress and warranted legal intervention. 49 of these properties made up the first At-Risk list that was published in August 2011. As a testament to the success of the Proactive model, 18 of the buildings have reduced their violations by more than 80 percent and were subsequently discharged. 85 percent of those that have not yet met the discharge criteria continue to show progress averaging a 56 percent drop in violations. 

Of the 134 buildings on the current list published today, 70 percent of the new additions to the At-Risk list have already decreased their overall violations by 35 percent. 

Overall, the PPI represents a major shift in the way the City identifies distressed buildings and targets them for intervention. Until last year, individual tenant complaints were the City’s primary means of discerning a building’s level of disrepair. Now, through the framework established by PPI, HPD consolidates data from multiple sources such as outstanding tax arrears, water arrears, neighborhood foreclosure rates, housing code violations and information from local elected officials, community groups and advocates to pinpoint distressed buildings that are actively declining and have the highest likelihood of becoming blighted and blighting influences. Once a building is referred by a source or chosen based on data, a process commences that entails: 

  • On a rolling basis, HPD’s Division of Neighborhood Preservation (DNP) staff surveys buildings in order to confirm the need for Proactive intervention:
    • Surveyed buildings that are confirmed as being significantly distressed are referred to HPD’s dedicated Proactive Enforcement Bureau (PEB) for roof-to-cellar inspections which can result in the issuance of additional violations, or
    • Buildings that are initially surveyed by DNP and show severe distress and neglect by the current owner may be referred directly to HLD for litigation without a PEB (roof-to-cellar) inspection.
  • Following a 45-day period for owners to correct the newly issued PEB violations, the buildings are re-inspected by PEB and then placed on the public At-Risk buildings list.
    • Buildings referred by DNP directly to HLD for litigation are automatically placed on the list (a 45-day correction period is not necessary as the conditions are being litigated in housing court)
  • The At-Risk list charts the violations on record prior to the first PEB inspection, the violations added as a result of the first PEB roof-to-cellar inspection, and change in violations after PEB’s re-inspection at the 45-day correction period.
  • The At-Risk list is updated semi-annually, and closed litigation cases and PEB buildings with violation counts that have dropped at least 80 percent are discharged from the list but continue to be monitored on a PPI Watchlist. 

PPI is an approach that can lay out different paths to rehabilitation. For example, if a property that has been referred to the At-Risk list is in foreclosure, HPD may work with the lender to affect a positive change in ownership and will attempt to work with the new owners to provide the resources needed to bring the building back into good repair. If the owner makes a good faith effort to correct the violations and is in genuine need of assistance, HPD can provide a low-interest rehabilitation loan. However, if the owner is resistant to correcting violations, HPD may pursue litigation in housing court to enforce compliance with the violations that were issued. 

In one case, 160 West 121St Street, Manhattan is a building that was referred to PPI in June of 2011 by the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation (NMIC) because of their concern about declining conditions the tenants were experiencing. HPD’s initial survey confirmed that the building was in poor condition and it was referred to the PEB for a roof-to-cellar inspection that found severe and escalating distress, with unresponsive ownership. The building’s case was referred to HLD which commenced a proceeding in Housing Court in December 2011 seeking to have the court appoint an independent administrator (7A) to run the property and correct the violations. The owners defaulted and the Court issued an order appointing a 7A Administrator in February 2012. HPD is working with the new 7A Administrator, and through its 7A Financial Assistance (7AFA) program, is providing a low-interest loan to address all major areas of concern (electrical, plumbing, bathrooms, defective joists, windows, roof). Through the pathway set by PPI the current tenants can begin to look forward to responsive management which now has the resources necessary to properly repair their homes and the City will no longer need to intervene to make emergency repairs. 

The Speaker and the City Council have been strategic partners in supporting HPD’s efforts to develop PPI and in working with the Bloomberg Administration to develop several pieces of legislation that strengthen the initiative, including authorizing the City to sell emergency repair liens to a third party collector, saving taxpayer money and encouraging landlords to make repairs themselves before accruing liens that would qualify their property for inclusion in the lien sale. In addition, City Council legislation signed into law on February 1, 2012, requires HPD be notified by a mortgage holder commencing a residential foreclosure action, adding to available data sources and enabling the PPI to better monitor multifamily buildings for potential distress. 

Currently, Speaker Quinn is working with HPD on legislation that if passed, would allow the agency to issue an order to building owners to address the source of an on-going problem as opposed to making stop-gap repairs (i.e. correct the underlying conditions in a building that are the cause of recurring violations). Currently HPD only has this authority when a building reaches an extreme state of disrepair and enters the Alterative Enforcement Program (AEP). 

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About the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD)

HPD is the nation’s largest municipal housing preservation and development agency. Its mission is to promote quality housing and viable neighborhoods for New Yorkers through education, outreach, loan and development programs and enforcement of housing quality standards. It is responsible for implementing Mayor Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan to finance the construction or preservation of 165,000 units of affordable housing by 2014. Since the plan’s inception, more than 129,600 affordable homes have been created or preserved. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/hpd




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