HPD Pushes Back on City Council’s Proposed Registration Legislation

At a recent public hearing, Anne-Marie Hendrickson, a deputy commissioner at the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), said proposed New York City Council legislation requiring landlords to register their rent-regulated apartments with the city or face fines is a “waste of taxpayers’ resources.”

But council members showed no signs of reversing course, instead calling for increased oversight of 421-a and J-51 affordable housing programs. The council members pointed to reports that up to 200,000 apartments may be missing from the state’s registry of rent-stabilized apartments, including about 50,000 that are subject to rent limits because of a subsidy that can reduce property taxes by upwards of 90 percent. These figures were prominently discussed at the public hearing, spotlighting what tenant advocates have long said is a record of weak enforcement by city and state housing agencies.

To identify all the apartments that may be missing from rent stabilization, Council Member Ben Kallos has proposed a parallel city registration system that would require landlords to account for their apartments with both HPD and the state’s Department of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), or face fines for not doing so. Currently, landlords are required to register only with the DHCR, which doesn’t proactively monitor its data or check it for accuracy.

Hendrickson did not dispute estimates of missing apartments, and she conceded that many landlords who collect a tax break, known as 421-a, don’t bother to register apartments for rent stabilization as required by law. Instead, she pushed back against “micromanagement” of her agency, saying HPD is already working to boost landlord compliance. She pointed to her agency’s participation in a task force that state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman convened to police the 421-a program. In December, Schneiderman said the effort had returned about 1,800 apartments to rent stabilization.