Slumlords and Your Tax Dollars


AM New York had an interesting piece yesterday about a topic that’s near and dear to us over here at Runnin’ Scared: taxpayer dollars that end up in the pockets of slumlords.
The paper, using data from Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio’s office, reported that a beleaguered city program which provides rent subsidies to homeless people who have found stable jobs is placing tenants into some of the worst buildings in the city.

The program, called Advantage, gave a Bronx landlord $221,000 to place tenants in his Bronx buildings, DeBlasio says. Taken together, those buildings, which went into foreclosure and are now managed by a court-appointed receiver, have 1,020 code violations and are on his worst landlords watchlist. (The receiver is Albert Sontag Real Estate, but the real culprit is the landlord who came before him.) All told, DeBlasio tells Runnin Scared that he has identified 12 buildings on his watchlist that are home to Advantage tenants. Four of these 12 are on the city’s own official worst buildings list.

But what AM New York doesn’t tell you is that some of the fault appears to lie with the tenants themselves.

Barbara Brancaccio, spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Homeless Services tells the Voice the tenants themselves are the ones that choose the buildings they want to live in. After they choose an apartment, an inspection is conducted, using federal Section 8 standards (Section 8 is the low-income housing program). And if the tenants aren’t satisfied after moving in, they can choose to leave. (As an important side note here: The funding has been cut for Advantage in Governor Cuomo’s latest budget. Unless the state frees up funds, programming is slated to end on April 1, Brancaccio says).

The problem of taxpayer dollars going to slumlords is clearly not limited to Advantage. As we’ve shown on this blog and through reporting, many landlords that own buildings on the city’s worst buildings list receive Section 8 federal low-income housing subsidies.

The Section 8 program does conduct building inspections. And if a landlords does a really, really bad job (including failing repeated inspections), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) can technically nullify the contract.

Can you guess how many New York City landlords have had their contracts canceled by HUD over the past two years? Despite what would appear to be a nearly limitless supply of candidates, the answer is: none.

For info about some terrible buildings where tenants in other city programs have been placed, check out our reporting on 2356 Lorillard Place, which housed tenants in two city programs – one that assists people with H.I.V. and other that helps victims of domestic violence.

Another building which housed the formerly homeless was so neglected, we reported that tenants were running a mini-casino, equipped with slot machines, right out of a first-floor apartment.