In a move to make the city’s program for tax-delinquent buildings more tenant-friendly, Harlem City Councilman Bill Perkins introduced a new bill last week that would make it easier for tenants to take over their own buildings and run them as low-income co-ops.
The changes, if passed by the City Council, would modify the city’s third-party transfer program, which conveys run-down, seriously tax delinquent private properties into the hands of specially chosen responsible owners. (Since the law was passed in 1996, only a handful of buildings have gone through the process, but hundreds more are currently in the pipeline.) Perkins’ bill would change the law so that if 60 percent of the tenants were interested in taking over their home, they could do so, with the help of a nonprofit.
“Essentially, we’re trying to provide qualified and willing tenants the opportunity to own their own homes as is the case with other [city housing department] programs,” said Perkins. “The concept of tenant ownership is over 30 years old, and we’ve seen that it is successful time and time again.” Perkins said that although he did not have the explicit support of City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, who controls the progress of most City Council legislation, he has heard “what I consider to be positive signals.”
“That change is good-it should have been in the first law,” said Susie Britton, the tenant association president of a Central Harlem building that had serious repair problems before the tenants began managing the building. Britton said that she and the other tenants are more than ready to officially take over the property, currently slated for the third-party transfer program. Along with the changes, Perkins also introduced a two-year freeze on the third-party transfer program, a move that he admits is part negotiating tool. “We want to meet with HPD, and perhaps a moratorium will help in that regard.”