Soil the TIL

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The city program that allows low-income tenants to run their own apartment buildings needs a major overhaul, according to City Comptroller Alan Hevesi.

His audit of the Tenant Interim Lease (TIL) program finds that buildings are suffering from poor management and deteriorating conditions. Hevesi slams the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) for pouring millions of dollars into TIL without adequate oversight or record-keeping.

“Simply stated, a large number of these buildings have not succeeded in any way, shape or form,” write Hevesi’s auditors. “Many of the buildings have… deteriorated and are probably in the same or worse condition than before they were renovated by HPD.”

The widely duplicated TIL program, which includes 632 buildings, gives tenants direct responsibility for building management. Through the program, tenants in city-owned buildings can eventually convert them to co-ops, with about $44,000 per apartment in city rehab money.

The Hevesi report also notes that:

  • Many of the buildings are financially unstable, and TIL tenants owe about $15.3 million in taxes. Hevesi claims that HPD overestimates the rent rolls of many buildings, in some cases by four times the actual cash flow.
  • Many TIL buildings have fallen into disrepair. A survey of 19 TILs found six in poor condition, with leaky roofs, cracked stairways and faulty boilers.

HPD, in a written response to City Limits, defends the program. “A closer look at the data reveals that 18 buildings out of the 352 buildings in tax arrears owe one-third of the taxes,” notes TIL Director Elba Ramos. “We believe this small number of buildings does not reduce the positive impact that TIL has on communities around the city.” Ramos emphasizes in the letter that increases in rehabilitation money and improvements in tenant training have made the program more successful.

“TIL has never been given the resources necessary to do the job everyone would have wanted,” says Ann Henderson, senior project director with Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, which teaches building management to TIL tenants. This year, the program’s budget was only $20 million, down 44 percent from three years ago. Says Henderson: “It is successful in terms of what it has done: giving people greater pride and ownership of their buildings and their neighborhoods.”