Saturday, May 28, 2011

Is easing or tightening regulations the answer?

From City Hall:

Two deadly blazes in recent weeks, one in a Bronx apartment and another in Brooklyn, are raising questions about the city's ability to crack down on thousands of apartments that are illegally divided into separate, smaller units.

While much of the city's response focuses on how to bolster enforcement, an additional answer could be to adapt the zoning and building codes to pave the way for smaller—and safer—housing units as an alternative to the overcrowded, risky conditions many New Yorkers live in.

"If you want to change those problems, you have to offer other kinds of solutions," said Jerilyn Perine, executive director of the Citizens Housing & Planning Council, a housing research organization. "You can't just outlaw the world of the underground housing market. It exists because people can't find what they need in the normal housing market."

Easing the regulations would boost the supply of housing for low-income families, single adults and commuters who stay in the city part-time, according to the group.

No one disputes that illegal subdivisions are a problem. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the U.S. Census undercounted the city population by around 250,000 people in part because it missed residents in illegal subdivisions.

The CHPC estimated in 2003 that 100,000 illegal dwellings were in spaces not designed for residential use at all. And each year New York City receives about 20,000 complaints about illegally converted apartments, though it is able to inspect fewer than half of them.


From the Queens Tribune:

Though the city receives thousands of complaints about illegal conversions each year, only a handful ever end in fines. DOB officers sent to investigate the complaints are often denied entry and the complaints are often closed after two tries; homeowners, expecting visits from the DOB, have become smart on how to avoid encountering an inspector. The problem has led Public Advocate Bill de Blasio to call for reforming the way the DOB responds to complaints.

"We see illegally divided housing across Queens, both in neighborhoods dominated by big apartment buildings and those made up single-family homes," de Blasio said. "Wherever it happens, it is dangerous and the Dept. of Buildings needs to respond rapidly to reports they receive. It should not take the Dept. of Buildings weeks to dispatch inspectors, only to have many of them stymied by locked doors. The Department must accelerate its inspection process and increase its attempts to gain access to illegally subdivided units."

Among the things de Blasio would like to see the DOB change is the hours of inspection visits, so that owners are at home when inspectors come. Currently, most visits occur during the day when homeowners may be at work. He added that the DOB should have a quicker response time to complaints, which can sometimes be more than a month, and they should prioritize illegal conversions.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

does not the d.o.b. and e.b.c. and nyc finance dept. want the fines paid for the illegal violations. are they insane?

the greedy 10,000 to 20,000 property owners are not declaring this illegal rental income on their taxes.

CntrySigns said...

Why don't they handle it the way the we handle other tickets. Guilty until proven innocent. Give the ticket after 3 reportings when DOB gets turned away. Then make the home owner have to pay for an inspector to come to property to prove there is nothing illegal to have the ticket dismissed. We need to make the fine big enough that the owner just doesn't pay it and chalk it up to the "cost of doing business" like other NYC fines.

Anonymous said...

Notice how all illegal conversion news is handled?

1. The local pol expresses surprise and outrage that there are illegal conversions in their district.

2. The solution inevitably suggested is always the same: add to the real estate frenzy by even more building! A bit like traffic - add more lanes and the problem will be solved. Yea, right.

3. Oh yes, and no real discussion on the one way it can be solved: stiff fines for the home owner and enforcing the laws already on the books by city council mandate.

Melissa said...

"While much of the city's response focuses on how to bolster enforcement, an additional answer could be to adapt the zoning and building codes to pave the way for smaller—and safer—housing units as an alternative to the overcrowded, risky conditions many New Yorkers live in."

Amen. Small can be safe. They do it in Asia. There is so much competition for the few tiny affordable apartments that have been grandfathered in. I don't need a lot of space, I just don't want to have a long commute.

Anonymous said...

most illegal conversions in queens county are located in one and two family dwellings.

ARE THEY SMALL ENOUGH FOR YOU??????

Anonymous said...

Let's stop calling them 1 family and 2 family homes and start referring to them as 1 dwelling unit and 2 dwelling unit. In my neighborhood, some people try to con the system by feigning ignorance when the illegal tenant is family-related in some way.

Anonymous said...

If there is an undercount in the census due to illegal sub-divisions then so what Bloomberg - you did nothing to prevent it and everything to ignore the problem. DOB management does not take a pro-active stance to eliminate the problem and in fact it is not fear by those who illegally convert property.

Anonymous said...

They do it in Asia. There is so much competition for the few tiny affordable apartments that have been grandfathered in. I don't need a lot of space, I just don't want to have a long commute.
---------------------

Yes, lets live like they do in Asia. Wont that just be wonderful? SARS, H1N1, etc. Everyone living on top of each other. Fantastic lifestyle they got over there.

How about if you dont want to have a long commute, you get a better paying job and buy into a better location?

Can't afford it? sorry, looks like you will have to sit on the bus a bit longer. That's life.

Anonymous said...

What the politicians fail to mention is the millions $$$ in fines that ARE collected.
$ that's collected at ECB court specificaly on illegal conversions.
The amount is in astronomical and may surprise many ignorant ones.
Money goes straight to the general fund. How much is collected "they" will not tell. Everyone benefits.
It's called Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).