The Real Deal New York

REBNY flags City Council bills that threaten affordable housing

Among nine proposals cited, industry board attacks plan to limit after-hours construction
By Rich Bockmann | August 12, 2014 03:25PM

The Real Estate Board of New York has flagged nine pieces of legislation introduced by the City Council that the industry group claims are counterproductive to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s much-publicized affordable housing plan.

Among the nine pieces of legislation are proposals to limit after-hours construction, prohibit owners of buildings with multiple violations from receiving permits and requiring all hotel development plans – even those that are as of right – to go before the local community board for review.

The list is part of a little-known 125-page report REBNY drafted earlier this year as a guideline for City Hall as it considers ways to build or preserve 200,000 affordable units over the next 10 years. “Our goal was to assemble a broad range of ideas and suggestions that, based on their experience, would increase housing production throughout the city,” notes the report, which was drafted from input by residential builders and operators.

According to the trade group, the City Council introduced more than 250 bills through March — with 52 related to the real estate business. REBNY argues that excessive legislation has driven up the cost of construction.

“Some of these mandates impose modest increases; others are most costly and more troublesome and whose benefits are less compelling,” the report reads. “Over the years, these mandates have continued to increase and their collective cost is no longer modest.”

The report also flagged a bill introduced by Lower Manhattan Councilwoman Margaret Chin that would require building owners to maintain an escrow account worth 10 percent of five years’ of rent rolls to fund tenant relocations following a vacate order.

“Ten percent of rent rolls takes a significant amount of funds … away from building repairs, reserves, and may require an increased mortgage on the property,” the report reads. “HPD already has a mechanism and fund for tenant relocations, where they maintain the ability to collect from owners, and this bill does not increase the circumstances in which an owner is required to compensate tenants.”

Chin said vacate orders are a persistent problem in her district, which saw three major incidents in 2013.

“Amid the disorder of vacating their homes, residents should at least have the assurance of a place to go until they can make more permanent arrangements,” she said. “This legislation would hold landlords responsible for the welfare of their tenants after a vacate order, and that just makes sense, because it makes things a bit easier for those families and takes some of the uncertainty out of an already difficult situation.”

The councilwoman co-sponsored seven other bills flagged by REBNY and disputed the idea that the legislative proposals would hinder the administration’s goal.

“While I understand there are concerns about costs for developers, I’m supporting these bills because of the positive impact they’ll have for tenants and communities across our city,” she said. “I’m also a passionate supporter of Mayor de Blasio’s ten-year affordable housing plan, and I know that good legislation won’t get in the way of accomplishing that goal.”

Among the pages of the REBNY report there are also proposals to adjust property taxes that encourage conversion of rentals to condos/co-ops, change policies to allow for smaller affordable apartments and capitalizing on recent neighborhood rezonings that have not seen expected levels of development.