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NYC housing subsidy program under a spotlight, Part 2

We recently pointed to an embattled New York City housing program, noting that many landlords participating in it are "reaping a one-sided advantage."

According to investigative journalists who have taken a deep dive into the particulars of the NYC 421-a housing subsidy, and to a growing band of critics -- including legislators -- who have seen first-hand some of its excesses, there are some very straightforward reasons why 421-a is replete with problems.

Here's a central one: Although a cut in property taxes owed is tied to landlords' limiting of annual rent increases, about two-thirds of property owners who participate in 421-a don't even file the appropriate papers that city regulators need to have on hand to enforce the program's rules.

The result, as noted by ProPublica, is that "most [participating] landlords don't bother to register their apartments for rent stabilization with the state as required by law," but still claim the reduced-tax benefit.

And what do the affected renters get?

Unsurprisingly, rent increases, a result that turns the program on its head in terms of logic and intended application.

New legislation targeting that inequity was introduced into the New York City Council last week. If passed, two bills would materially clean up 421-a, while seeking to render it a program that truly confers reciprocal benefits on both landlords and tenants.

One bill would require that at least 20 percent of all 421-a properties be audited each year. Another would mandate audits relevant to low-income housing that must be set aside by landlords claiming the 421-a tax benefit.

If passed, the bills will still not take legal effect for a year.

Will they help tenants?

Time will tell. Legislation that seeks to protect renters is a salutary thing, of course, but battles with recalcitrant and bad-faith landlords are a persistent and enduring reality across the city.

Renters with questions or concerns about any housing matter can contact a proven tenants' rights attorney for answers and diligent legal representation in any dwelling-related dispute.