The Real Estate Board of New York to The New York City Council Committee on Housing and Buildings Regarding Vacant and Neglected Properties

Ryan Monell

Vice President of Government Affairs

June 5, 2023

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Thank you, Chair Sanchez and members of the committee, for the opportunity to testify today on the state of our housing stock, particularly vacant and neglected properties.

REBNY appreciates the Council’s efforts to collect data on residential vacancies to further assess the needs of our housing stock. REBNY is supportive of the Council’s aims of making informed policy decisions based on quality data. Improvements to the City’s vacancy data availability will allow for robust, transparent discussion on our rental housing. However, REBNY encourages the Council to the greatest extent possible to use data already being collected by City agencies or from existing sources like the NYC Housing and Vacancy Survey prior to adopting new reporting requirements that may prove to be duplicative and burdensome. REBNY looks forward to working with the Council on these important issues.

BILL: Intro 195A-2022

TOPIC: The bill would require HPD to contact owners of multiple dwellings for which HPD has received complaints about potential hazardous or immediately hazardous conditions in vacant dwelling units. The owner would be required to schedule an HPD inspection of such dwelling unit within 21 days for the existence of any conditions constituting a violation of the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law, the New York City Housing Maintenance Code, or other applicable State or local laws. Failure to schedule the vacant unit inspection would constitute a non-hazardous violation.

SPONSORS: Councilmembers Rivera, Brewer, Caban, Nurse, Hanif, Farias, Aviles, Brooks-Powers, Ayala, Krishnan, Won, Richardson Jordan, Restler, Osse, Gutierrez, Hudson, Abreu, Bottcher, Williams, Louis, Schulman, Sanchez, Dinowitz, Joseph, De La Rosa, Feliz, Riley, Stevens, Barron, Powers, Narcisse, Marte and Speaker Adams.

REBNY understands and agrees with the need to address conditions detrimental to a tenant’s health and well-being. However, the way this legislation is currently drafted, it places emphasis on rooting out conditions that may exist in any unit that is unoccupied and may already be under repair. The timelines mandated in this bill will have the practical impact of shifting HPD enforcement resources from occupied units where there is a clear nexus to have inspections occur timely. This would occur despite a woefully inadequate capacity to respond to complaints in occupied units and would divert resources to allow these new inspections to occur.

Placing the onus on the owner for a resource starved agency’s inability to meet the inspection deadlines outlined here is not appropriate. REBNY hopes that the Council will revise this legislation to focus agency resources better.

BILL: Intro 352-2022

TOPIC: This bill would require the owner of any real property in the city to register the property as vacant upon it being vacant one year. Registrations would need to be renewed annually and failure to comply would result in a fine between $100 - $500 per week.

SPONSORS: Councilmembers Restler, Hanks, Moya, Farias, Louis, Joseph, Ayala, De La Rosa, Marte, Abreu, Richardson Jordan, Sanchez, Williams, Riley, and Nurse

Like Intro 195A, REBNY appreciates the Council’s intention to identify and encourage opportunities to better understand the universe of vacant units. While this legislation would help do this, REBNY believes that further clarity is needed.

For example, it is important to identify opportunities to establish a comprehensive list of where vacancies are occurring and why those vacancies have occurred. This legislation does not address these matters. In addition, it does not consider what is a significant underlying issue of why a unit is not online – the fact that it is not financially viable to renovate units given the plethora of rent restrictions that make it difficult to recover the costs for renovations.

Finally, this legislation fails to consider other reporting requirements that already exist. For example, for units that have LIHTC (Low Income Housing Tax Credit) funding through HPD, HCR, or HDC, the agency already requires owners to demonstrate attempts to rent all vacant units. It would be good for the Council to use existing sources of data more effectively.

Most importantly, REBNY believes that what constitutes a vacancy must be defined. For example, would new construction waiting for a Certificate of Occupancy, or currently awaiting leasing via Housing Connect be required to register? Would a cooperative or condominium unit currently on the market? It would be important to define the universe of units needing to comply. REBNY looks forward to working with the sponsor to obtain the clarity needed for this legislation to be effective.

Thank you for your consideration of these points.

Topics Covered

  • Housing