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City Not Strong-Arming Slumlords Nearly Enough, Audit Says

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The city’s Independent Budget Office has released an audit of the “Worst Properties” program — the biggest stick the city has for fighting slumlords. Not surprisingly, the audit has found that the program isn‚t such a big stick at all.

We could have told you that. In fact, we did.

Here’s what the audit has to say:

598 buildings have been in the program — which targets 200 “worst” properties for extra inspections and repairs. That’s a fraction of New York City’s total housing stock — less than half a percent.

The majority of buildings remain in the program, some languishing for years on end. So much for the city’s effectiveness. The program, officially called the Alternative Enforcement Program, is supposed to give landlords four months to clean up the majority of the violations. If they don’t, they city performs the emergency repairs and charges the bill to the landlords.

But guess what? The landlords aren’t paying their bills, the IBO says. In fact, landlords have only repaid $4 million of the $23 million spent by the city.

Maybe the landlords are broke, or maybe they lack “incentives,” the report says.

The concept behind the program is to put a lot of resources into the city’s very worst buildings. And there’s no doubt that the AEP buildings are real emergencies. The problem is that, quite frankly, there are a lot of real emergencies out there, and the program impacts so few buildings — about one percent of all occupied apartments in the city — that it can’t possibly scratch the surface.

Just look at open emergency hazard violations — the city’s most serious classification for things like lead, serious rodents and mold, broken fire escapes, and collapsing ceilings. Taken together, these targeted buildings only account for about one percent of all open emergency hazard violations.

How many total “emergency hazards” are there anyway? 335,020 too many.

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