Mixed-Bag Housing Bill OK’d

A key City Council committee passed an omnibus housing bill April 22 that offers vital protections to low-income housing tenants, but may open loopholes for the sell-off of distressed properties to speculators. “Overall, I think it’s a victory,” said Jay Small, executive director of the Association for Neighborhood Housing and Development. “But it is certainly not the broadest or best protection the city could have given us.”

Under the new bill, 600 of the city’s worst-maintained, tax-delinquent buildings will be labeled “distressed” and exempted from the sales of property-tax liens to Wall Street brokerages that the Giuliani administration plans to begin in May. However, 90 percent of the buildings in tax arrears — including many low-income apartment houses — can be forced onto the lien sales under the bill.

The measure also allows the city to sell liens on any property to “responsible” bidders, provides a legal definition of “distressed” property that could protect some buildings from speculators, and creates an “early warning system” to identify buildings on the verge of abandonment more quickly. It is expected to be passed by the full Council and signed into law by the Mayor.


Reprinted with permission from City Limits Weekly. For a copy of the bill or a summary of its provisions, call (212) 788-7100.