CIVIC CENTER — Landlords of unsafe buildings could be forced to pay for displaced tenants' temporary housing while their apartments are being fixed under proposed legislation in the City Council.
Councilwoman Margaret Chin is renewing her push for the bill, which was introduced last year, in the hopes of making it easier for New Yorkers to find temporary housing after their homes are vacated by the city for falling into disrepair.
Chin hopes that shifting the burden of temporary housing onto landlords will prevent the Department of Housing Preservation and Development from passing stringent new rules governing applications for temporary housing, which she said would make it more difficult for tenants to apply and receive help.
“If HPD is hoping to reduce its costs, cutting back on any tenant relocation services is absolutely the wrong way to do it," Chin said in a statement about the new rules, which would require displaced tenants to apply for help within 30 days or else lose the opportunity to get temporary housing.
"Rather than further burdening displaced families," Chin added, "the administration should consider my legislation...as a better alternative that would also relieve HPD of much of the financial burden associated with tenant relocation."
Chin's measure would allow the city to require landlords to keep 10 percent of the building's rent roll in escrow, and the city would be able to seize five years' worth of that money if the building is vacated because of safety violations. HPD would then use that money to cover the cost of temporarily housing the displaced tenants.
A spokesman for Chin's office said the logistics of the process — such as which landlords would be required to keep an escrow account, or how the situation would affect landlords during a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy — would be at HPD's discretion. The legislation would apply to buildings vacated by any city agency, including the FDNY and the Department of Buildings.
In a statement, a spokesman for HPD said: "We appreciate the Council Member’s partnership on issues that affect our most vulnerable citizens, and look forward to sitting down with her to discuss the proposed legislation and how we can continue to work together to better serve our city’s tenants."
The Real Estate Board of New York, which represents landlords, criticized the proposed legislation.
“While we agree with the bill's intentions, this legislation would better protect tenants by strengthening the existing HPD program to relocate tenants instead of cutting into funds used for building repairs and maintenance," said REBNY president Steven Spinola.
He added that the bill "does not take into account the difficulties that homeowners of coops and condos would face.”
Twelve members of the City Council have signed onto the bill as co-sponsors, but it has not been brought to a vote in the Committee on Housing and Buildings.
The committee chair, Councilman Jumaane Williams, did not immediately comment.