City Council’s Housing Chair Seeks Timely Building Code Enforcement

Councilmember Peirina Sanchez, the new chair of the City Council's Committee on Housing and Buildings, said in a recent radio interview she plans to focus on code enforcement at future committee hearings. She is aiming to look at how city agencies respond to unsafe living conditions in apartments across the five boroughs. Sanchez served as a housing advisor to Mayor Bill de Blasio from 2018 to 2020.

One level deeper: The Committee on Housing and Buildings has jurisdiction over New York City’s rent regulation policies and practices, as well as the Department of Buildings and Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

“Although HPD and DOB are responding quickly to 311 complaints and sending out inspectors, there is a very troubling lag time and delay in terms of closure of these complaints,” she said. “It’s one thing to get an inspector out right away and that’s a good thing, [but] the ultimate goal is safety in our homes.” Penalties, she added, “should be a huge stick, a huge disincentive,” but for large landlords, “it becomes a slap on the wrist.”

What caught our eye: HPD recently announced heightened enforcement for 250 buildings with open violations as part of its Alternative Enforcement Program (AEP). According to HPD, the 250 buildings added this year to the program have nearly 40,000 open violations between them, including 9,442 immediately hazardous violations; 21,821 hazardous violations; and 8,327 non-hazardous violations. The 250 buildings are spread across most of the city, with 43 buildings in Manhattan (1,059 homes), 72 buildings in the Bronx (1,977 homes), 119 buildings in Brooklyn (1,837 homes), and 16 buildings in Queens (231 homes) being added to the program.

Failure to fix the violations within a four-month period will subject the owner to significant fees. In addition, HPD may facilitate emergency repairs at the owner’s expense if the corrections are not made in a timely manner. The repair bills are transferred to the Department of Finance and a tax lien may be placed against the property. HPD can also petition the Housing Court to appoint a 7A Administrator to take control of the building to make the necessary repairs and collect rent.