After a Housing Rights Initiative investigation found that Kushner Companies severely misrepresented the number of rent stabilized apartments on at least 80 construction permit applications, the city’s Department of Buildings vowed to take on a thorough investigation of the matter. But one of the available sources for stabilization information, the Department of Finance, is not a solution, according to the agency’s commissioner Rick Chandler.
“For us as a regulator, we rely on the source of the information,” Chandler said at Thursday event hosted by Crain’s. “I don’t think Department of Finance is the place for us to get that information.”
The state’s top housing regulator, the Department of Homes and Community Renewal, requires building owners to report how many rent-stabilized apartments they have for their properties every year. That’s largely left up to the landlords to report correctly. The information is then passed on to the city’s Department of Finance, which reports the numbers on annual tax bills.
Chandler said his office verifies stabilization data with HCR. (However, if those figures were improperly reported by the landlord, that information is effectively worthless.) No alternative to DOF and HCR was proposed by Chandler according to Crain’s reporting, however.
As The Real Deal has previously reported, HCR “may impose a penalty of up to $250 upon owners for each knowing violation of the Rent Regulations,” according to the department’s website. The DOB, however, can issue fines of as much as $25,000 for false documents.
When news of Kushner’s building permit problems first hit, City Councilmember Richie Torres of the Bronx announced he would investigate the DOB for its failure to regulate Kushner.
Kushner blamed the inaccurate rent-stabilization filings on third parties. Tenants at the Kushner buildings in question told the AP earlier this month they felt Kushner used the falsified permits to perform disruptive construction work intended to push them out of their homes.
Having rent stabilized tenants live in a building slated for construction work can trigger stronger oversight from the DOB, but according to the AP’s report, Kushner represented that there were zero rent stabilized apartments across 34 buildings. In reality, there were more than 300. [Crain’s] — Will Parker
This post was updated to clarify Rick Chandler’s comments.