Low-income black and brown residents of city-owned buildings throughout Manhattan are contesting a recent policy change that they say is keeping longtime residents from property ownership and their future heirs from permanent affordable housing.
Earlier this year, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) announced to residents of HPD’s Tenant Interim Lease (TIL) program that they would be “executing new apartment leases between April 1st and June 30 of this year.”
However, City Councilman Mark Levine (D-Manhattan Valley, Manhattanville, Morningside Heights, Hamilton Heights) and housing advocates like P.A.’L.A.N.T.E. Harlem, are charging a lack of due process in the new policy requirement.
“Our chief concern is that the new requirement will remove tenants of record from their TIL unit without due process. Tenants should have a right to contest a decision that threatens to evict them from a home they have been in for years, many for decades, waiting for the opportunity to become homeowners,” read a letter sent last week to HPD Commissioner Louise Carroll.
HPD’s new lease signing requirement comes off the heels that longtime residents in over 190 TIL buildings across the City are no longer set to become property owners as Housing Development Fund Corporation (HDFC) co-operatives but residents under a new affordable housing program, Affordable Neighborhood Cooperative Program (ANCP).
Levine went on to demand more time for the new leases to be negotiated and revised in a manner that both serves the requirement but preserves the original names of tenants for the record.
“The new policy requiring every TIL resident sign a lease arrived abruptly and with limited notice. HPD provided a very short window in which residents both receive this information and have to comply. Because of this, we ask that you pause this process and revise the requirement so that all residents have sufficient time to get the required paperwork in order and remain in their homes,” concluded the letter.
Additionally, residents and housing advocates like Elsia Vasquez, Founder & Executive Director of P.A.’L.A.N.T.E. Harlem Inc., say these new required leases have three problem areas:
- They only allow one tenant of record, which causes succession rights issues. Succession rights allow for a person who is an occupant in an apartment leased to a family member to become a tenant (succeed) after the primary tenant leaves if the family member lived in the apartment for two years or more prior to the tenant’s departure, or since the beginning of the tenancy, or since the commencement of the relationship.
- The Tenant Association Boards (TA) are being removed as authorized signers of leases which is in violation of the ByLaws. According to the TIL’s ByLaws, the Tenant Association of every building is required to sign new leases as part of their oversight into the building’s maintenance as indicated in Article IV, Section 2 of the Tenant Interim Lease Program ByLaws. Accordingly Article V, Section 2 clearly states “All matters concerning the management and use of the property and land thereof shall be decided by the Board of Directors.”
- HPD’s new directive are in violation of the Net Lease of the program as it no longer allows for the tenants associations, who manage day to day operations in the building, to rent vacant apartments and/or commercial space to increase their depleting rent roll. As indicated in the Net Lease, Page 4, Section 7.A “Relations with Tenants” clearly states “Rent. Lessee shall keep all apartments and commercial units rented and collect rent from tenants when due.” However, since the early 2000s, HPD has prevented the tenants association to rent vacant apartments and instead demanded that they warehouse their empty apartments in an effort to strategically deplete the funds in their operating management account with complete disregard to the thousands of families living in homeless shelters.
According to Vasquez, tenants who are being removed from the lease are not receiving the required 30-day Notice of Termination which notifies a TIL resident when and why they are being taken off of their lease. As is the process, a resident is then given a court day in which they are allowed to fight for their right to the unit and long-held property.
Additionally, due to only one tenant of record on the new leases, previous leases with more than one tenant of record or being forced from their portion of rights to the unit, i.e. spouses, cousins, who moved in together under the program back in its initial launch in the 1980s.
“Two decades ago they gave up their legal rights to rent stabilization to have the unique chance of homeownership and it should not be taken from them. These tenants have been managing their buildings, cleaned-up their community once considered undesirable, and yet in effect have been turned into twenty-first century real estate sharecroppers.” Elsia Vasquez said
However, in their original announcement of the new leases HPD contends they notified residents through mailings and flyers within their buildings in advance of official lease signing days. They also claim the new leases will list one tenant of record with additional members documented on a household composition form.
HPD did not respond in time for comment. Story will be updated.