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New NYC legislation responds to 421-a history of abuse

Candidly, "may" might not be the appropriate word that reporters in a recent investigative piece are looking for.

A media report from last week that spotlights problems with New York City's "biggest housing subsidy" notes that apparent widespread landlord disregard of the program's reporting requirements "may" be leaving high numbers of tenants on the hook for unjustifiably high rental charges.

Any number of commentators on the city's housing scene might reasonably suggest that the qualifying word simply be dropped, with writers flatly stating instead that legions of New Yorkers unquestionably are paying inflated rent charges.

After all, the evidence to suggest that reality emerges with regularity and in overwhelming fashion. Routinely, stories surface that focus on egregious landlord actions that unlawfully short tenants on their housing rights. Just recently, one of our blog posts cited the annually compiled "100 Worst Landlords in New York City" list.

The above-cited story spotlights the city's so-called 421-a program, which has the stated goal of encouraging city landlords to limit annual rent increases on select properties by eliminating property tax outlays they would otherwise owe. An attendant component of the subsidy program is its focus on low-income renters, with 421-a mandating that a set percentage of apartments be constructed and retained for their use.

The investigative journalism group ProPublica has pointed out rather emphatically that there are fundamental problems associated with the 421-a subsidy, with many landlords reaping a one-sided advantage from participation in the program.

We will look into that in some detail in our next blog post.