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Councilmembers, tenants and housing advocates rally for Housing Quality Act

Craig D. Frazier | 12/1/2014, 2:52 p.m.

Tenants from some of the city’s most problematic housing units were joined by advocates and elected officials at a rally outside City Hall recently to push for the enactment of two City Council bills that are part of the Housing Quality Act. The bills are aimed at equipping tenants with the tools they need to ensure that their housing is not only affordable but also livable.

If passed, the measures introduced by Councilmen Ritchie Torres and Antonio Reynoso would ensure the long-term protection of affordable housing by imposing fees for repeat hazardous housing violations and expansion of HPD’s Alternative Enforcement Program.

“New York City has a responsibility to preserve affordable housing and that includes more rigorous enforcement of housing codes ensuring quality, livable housing for all residents. By imposing a three-strikes fee on landlords who fail to cure hazardous and immediately hazardous housing conditions, HPD can ensure that it is targeting repeat violators of the Housing Maintenance Code,” said Councilmember Ritchie Torres, sponsor of Intro 348-A.

Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to preserve and build 200,000 units of affordable housing in the next decade, and lawmakers say that the bills would strengthen focus on housing quality. One of the measures would allow the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to expand its AEP, which catalogs the city’s worst buildings based on violations.

At a recent hearing, HPD Deputy Commissioner for Enforcement and Neighborhood Services Vito Mustaciuolo spoke in favor of expanding AEP. Noting the program’s success, he said, “AEP is one of the many instances where HPD has successfully collaborated with the Council and with tenants and their representatives to ensure the preservation of the city’s housing stock.”

The bill also has the support of many of the City Council members, including Councilman Dan Garodnick. “We should be looking to expand the reach of successful programs like this,” he said.