Yesterday at City Hall, the City Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings heard testimony on a package of four bills designed to strengthen the city’s tool-kit for preserving the existing housing where most low- and moderate-income New Yorkers live.

The preservation-focused hearing comes in the midst of negotiations with the de Blasio Administration on the Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) proposals. Council Members, advocacy organizations, City officials, and New Yorkers from across the city highlighted the need to strengthen the City’s preservation efforts, even as discussion about developing new affordable housing through MIH and ZQA continues.

Most low- and moderate-income New Yorkers live in privately-owned housing. Unfortunately, this housing stock is at great risk. Some landlords harass and seek to displace low-income tenants in order to replace them with higher rents — either by emptying an entire building for demolition, or more gradually, as a building is turned over unit-by-unit. Some landlords fail to provide adequate living conditions, by refusing to make repairs, or by only making short-term, superficial, fixes that leave dangerous underlying conditions in place. And in some cases, even where owners have received subsidies to provide affordable housing, they fail to live up to their obligations. Recent investigations by Pro Publica have revealed thousands of units that are required to be affordable, but have not been preserved for low-income families.

“Our City is in the midst of an affordability crisis, and too often seniors and working families are forced to endure harassment and live in deplorable conditions simply because some landlords view affordability as an excuse to neglect their responsibilities, or worse, an invitation to force their tenants out,” said Council Member and Chair of the Housing and Buildings Committee Jumaane D. Williams. “One thing is clear: we cannot build our way out of the housing crisis. I’m proud of the Housing Committee’s work to preserve existing affordable housing and ensure all New Yorkers can afford safe, stable housing free from harassment.”

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