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The Tenant Empowerment Act sailed through the City Council Thursday with a surprising (and veto-proof) 47 votes. Introduced by Councilmember Alan Gerson, it would help preserve Section 8 buildings, post-1973 Mitchell-Lama rentals, and other subsidized housing by allowing tenants a chance to buy their homes. The city and real estate lobby blasted the bill, Intro 186-A, as a violation of property rights, but its proponents say they have worked hard to make it fair to landlords seeking to opt out of government programs. Would-be tenant-owners would have to pay a price set by appraisal or, in some cases, go higher to meet a competing bid. The bigger question, many council members pointed out, is whether or not these deals will be economically viable. At a housing committee hearing earlier in the day, Councilmember Lewis Fidler said he had his doubts. Still, he added, “If we don’t pass it, it’s got no chance to work.” [06/27/05]