Program Aimed at Cracking Down on Negligent Landlords Gets Mixed Results

Since 2007, 598 poorly maintained properties were put into the Department of Housing Preservation and Development's Alternative Enforcement Program. The majority are small buildings in Brooklyn and the Bronx. A report by the city's Independent Budget Office finds that on the one hand, building owners that clean up their act once stricter enforcement begins have significantly fewer housing violations going forward. On the other hand, only 28 percent of them comply with making repairs and paying fines.

In addition, the IBO report finds that increasingly, the city is fixing the buildings itself, after landlords fail to follow through on repairs. In fiscal year 2008, 26 percent of the most serious violations were fixed by the city, that jumped to 45 percent in 2010. So far, $19 million has gone to improving the buildings. According to the report, only $4 million has been repaid by landlords. Often, the repairs ordered are extensive, like replacing a roof or putting in a whole new heating or electrical system.

The city's Housing Department says its primary concern is improving conditions for families living in some of the city's worst buildings and holding landlords accountable. New legislation is supposed to tweak the program making it more rigorous but also providing some flexibility for landlords such as allowing them to pay off their fines in payments rather than in one lump sum.