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Housing court, taxes and other headaches.

Nobody asked me, (as the late, renowned sportswriter Jimmy Cannon use to say) but ... The Housing Court continues to push owners to the point of insolvency. The industry has some 1,500 documented cases which show that the Housing Court has been ignoring elements of a settlement approved by a federal district court judge last year and agreed to by officials of die New York City Civil Court. In the settlement, the Housing Court was instructed to revamp several procedures designed to make it more responsive. Nevertheless: * In effect, the court continues to unreasonably delay issuance of Warrants of Eviction * The court does not order tenants to deposit rent, which causes owners involved in such cases to have difficulty covering their operating costs.

Owners also are objecting to being required by the court to retain tenants who are destructive and who cause breakage for which the owner is fined. As a result of these inactions and actions, the only recourse available to the industry is to bring a suit against the Housing Court, a route owners-are taking.

Nobody asked me, but ... A statistic reported to me recently caused me once again to wonder if the city is trying to liquidate the private, affordable rental housing industry? I was told the city is now the owner of more than 65 percent of the affordable rental housing in Harlem. * If this figure is correct, the large number of takings have to be the result of the rent laws and inadequate Guidelines Board rent increases, onerous regulations and high real estate, water and sewer taxes, as well as the economy * Confirming the latter thought is a story in this newspaper a few weeks ago that the New York City real estate tax delinquency rate his reached 12.75 percent, the highest level since 1970, In case you didn't read the article: some $346 million is outstanding, and is owed the city by 117,000 individual properties.

Nobody asked me, but ... Every time a new environmental danger is found -- asbestos, lead -- owners are ordered to eliminate it and clean it up, but no mention is made of where they're supposed to get the funds to do this. The truth is that with many affordable apartment building owners having thin bottom lines, and with bank financing tight, some form of public financing may be necessary to accomplish what are worthwhile environmental goals. * Owners should not be required to bear the burden alone of paying for the necessary clean up when they weren't responsible for the material being used in the first place, and when the material in most instances was legal when the owner bought the building * I don't believe owners should have to bear without assistance what for many is an economically back-breaking burden of cleaning up a potentially dangerous substance, such as lead paint.

Nobody asked me, but ... It has to boggle the mind that economic, real estate and regulatory conditions in the city are such that some of this town's most capable and successful private builders are participating in the subsidized, in rem, not-for profit renovation market. Under this program, the city provides a zero interest rate loan to bridge the gap between actual renovation costs and what the renovator can get. I've asked before, but I still have yet to learn why the city can't provide a subsidy program for the private market, as well as the not-for-profits, similar to the Mitchell Llama program of years ago.

The BRAB, Ruben Klein president, is the largest owner-industry organization in the Bronx. BRAB represents more than a thousand owners of 2,000 buildings housing over 150,000 residents. It offers members a full range of services, including labor negotiations and representation, informative seminars and periodic newsletters. Over the years, BRAB has participated with other city organizations in bringing and defending all necessary lawsuits.
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Author:Klein, Ruben
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Nov 4, 1992
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