Councilmember Tony Avella, a Queens Democrat who is running for mayor of New York City, is working on a bill aimed at stopping landlords from keeping vacant property off the market. Read all about it.
Housing advocates and East Harlem residents rallied outside a vacant building on Madison Avenue to bring attention to warehoused property that could be used for housing.
Landlords "want to warehouse to [assemble] whole blocks for development," said Avella, a frequent critic of the real estate industry. "They don't want to be regulated. But they have to be, because if we're ever going to change the housing situation in this city, we have to regulate the real estate industry."
The legislation proposed by Avella would empower the the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to fine owners who keep buildings empty and would create a fund to "provide capital for the rehabilitation of distressed vacant units." Half of the rental homes that come on the market as a result of this legislation would be set aside for homeless people.
In 2006, Picture the Homeless together with Manhattan Borough Presient Scott Stringer conducted a survey of vacant propery in Manhattan. They found that 24,000 apartments could come out of the vacant buildings and lots that they canvassed, and this only covered Manhattan. The report noted that "highly visible clusters of boarded-up buildings in neighborhoods exist throughout the five boroughs." Picture the Homeless said that vacant property could house the entire homeless population of New York City.
Councilman Avella's bill has not yet been introduced in the City Council; it has encountered potential legal problems, according to Avella's legal staff. However, Avella plans to continue to work on the legislation and to introduce it as soon as possible to move the discussion forward.