Currently, the City’s primary means of identifying problem buildings is through complaints received through calls to 311. The Proactive Preservation Initiative will enable the City to identify and address buildings preemptively, and the City expects to use it to put roughly 500 distressed buildings on a path to stability over the next 12 months.
The new Proactive Preservation Initiative represents a major shift in the way the City identifies distressed buildings. Until today, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) has primarily learned of and reacted to problematic conditions in apartments through individual tenant complaints. Going forward, HPD will also work with the City Council, the New York City Housing Development Corporation and New York State Homes and Community Renewal to collect and consolidate data from multiple sources to pinpoint distressed buildings that are actively declining and have the highest likelihood of becoming blighted and blighting influences. HPD field staff will survey the buildings, and for buildings that appear to be in decline, the agency will analyze other data, such as outstanding tax arrears, outstanding water arrears, neighborhood foreclosures, and notices from local elected officials, community groups and advocates. Based on that information, HPD will determine the appropriate course of action, which might include working with a building owner and providing rehabilitation loan, or stepping up code enforcement actions against irresponsible or absentee owners.
To implement the new initiative, HPD has formed a new 10-person Proactive Enforcement Bureau within its Division of Enforcement and Neighborhood Services. The Proactive Enforcement Bureau will be responsible for conducting cellar-to-roof inspections on the most distressed buildings identified by the Proactive program and helping to drive them toward remediation. Intervention strategies can include a combination of stringent Housing Maintenance Code enforcement, inspection, offering preservation loans, financial counseling and referrals and transfer of ownership. Buildings are selected for the initiative based on an increase in both distress and rate of decline – measured in terms of the rise in the number of emergency housing code violations over the past two years. Approximately 250 buildings, representing more than 8,000 households, will be chosen and prioritized for Proactive Preservation every 6 months.
To strengthen these tools, the Bloomberg Administration and the Council will develop ways to authorize the City to sell liens that are placed on properties when irresponsible landlords fail to make repairs and the City has to.