Last year, the City Council passed a strategic package of tenant protection bills, the first of its kind in decades, and this year in June, the state passed a set of comprehensive reforms affecting rent-stabilized housing across the city. This year, the City Council’s focus will be on a range of bills aimed at eradicating lead poisoning and addressing the needs of the city’s homeless population, among other housing and land-use concerns.
It has almost been a year since Bronx Councilmember Rafael Salamanca introduced his legislation to set aside 15 percent of housing units for homeless families or individuals in all new housing developments which receive the city’s financial assistance. Salamanca says it is vital to make the 15 percent set aside mandatory in order to combat homelessness at a level that can make an actual difference. But he says the mayor’s office is still opposed to the idea as a requirement and would prefer there to be more flexibility.
The City Council and Salamanca are working together with the city to come to an agreement, “They are worried about the language of the bill and would prefer to see some flexibility in case of a recession,” Salamanca said of the mayor’s side. He is hoping to see this bill move forward this year.
In order to eliminate lead poisoning across the five boroughs, members of the City Council introduced a package of 23 bills last year. The package of bills, which would comprise the largest set of new lead laws since 2004.
One of the bills from the package was introduced by Councilmember Alicka Ampry-Samuel, whose district includes Bedford-Stuyvesant, Ocean Hill-Brownsville, East Flatbush, Crown Heights neighborhoods. Intro 868 would require building owners to provide tenants with water filtration pitchers that are certified to reduce lead concentrations in water, install water filtration or treatment systems that are certified to reduce lead concentrations, or take a sample annually from each fixture that supplies water for drinking or cooking purposes to be analyzed for lead, and provide the results of the test to the tenant.
Councilmember Margaret Chin of Lower Manhattan introduced two bills related to reducing and eliminating lead poisoning; one bill will require landlords to ensure and certify that newly vacant housing units for multiple dwellings built before 1960 are completely lead-free; the requirement would take effect in five years. Apartments that have undergone certain inspections or already been certified as lead-free would be exempt. Another bill would require the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to notify the Department of Buildings if they find a violation of the lead paint laws in buildings.The DOB would then use the information to issue stop work orders until buildings come into compliance.
Another bill related to eradicating lead is Councilmember Stephen Levin’s Intro 0891 which will expand the definition of multiple dwellings for the purposes of the lead law to include any non-owner occupied private dwellings and Intro 0919, proposed by Councilmember Ritchie Torres, which would replace required city inspections for lead with an inspection by an independent EPA-certified inspector or risk assessor at least once every five years. Property owners would be required to submit inspection, turnover and exemption information when filing annual property registration statements.
The bills focused on lead eradication are expected to be voted on this year, according to the City Council Speaker’s office.
A few housing-related bills have been introduced by Councilmember Keith Powers. One bill will require tenants be notified within 24 hours if a mold assessor determines that mold remediation is necessary, which is not the current protocol, and an additional bill would require a landlord to give 24 hours notice to a tenant before accessing the housing unit or if there is a tenant email address at least 72 hours before making an inspection and 14 calendar days before making repairs or improvements or doing other work within the dwelling unit.
Powers’ other two bills focus on property owners. The Rental Fees bill would limit the fees property owners can collect in a rental transaction and prevent property owners from collecting those fees above the value of one month’s rent from the tenant. The other bill would expand credits against the Commercial Rent Tax would provide tax relief for businesses with incomes less than $10 million and tax bills of $800,000 or less.
The City Council also plans to vote on the “bird-friendly glass” bill 1482-2019, introduced by Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Member Rafael Espinal, which will expand the requirements for the glazing treatment a glass window must have in order to protect birds from flying into buildings and accidentally killing themselves. The bill would require a minimum of 90 percent of all exterior glazing, including all glass balcony railings, all glass corners and all parallel glass, to consist of bird friendly glass. The first 75 feet of all newly constructed buildings will have to have an exterior glazing that prevents bird strikes.
One bill that has yet to get any traction is Intro 1572-2019, which requires every environmental impact statement (EIS) subject to City Planning Commission review should include an analysis of racial and ethnic impacts and of whether the proposed action would affirmatively further fair housing within the meaning of the Fair Housing Act (deep coverage of the bill can be read here). The spokesperson for Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who introduced the bill, said they are hoping it will get consideration and spur an important discussion about community needs in the City Council.