Sunlight for City’s Foreclosures, Contracts

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City Council members approved a bill Wednesday that requires banks to notify the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) within 15 days of the start of foreclosure proceedings. Banks who fail comply face a fine of up to $1,000 each week until they complete the notification process.

Lawmakers said by making the foreclosure process more transparent from the start, tenants, government officials and community advocates will be able to focus energy and resources on neighborhoods hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis.

"Slum lords exist on the belief that nobody's watching," Council Speaker Christine Quinn said. "When they know they're going to be under the microscope, they are like roaches, they run away."

The bill also requires HPD to post the number of foreclosure actions online each quarter by community district. For buildings with twenty of more units subject to foreclosure, the agency must publish basic information about the building.

The law will apply to all property owners in New York City who face foreclosure action. Government mortgagees, however, are exempted.

A spokeswoman for the New York Bankers Association said the organization is not opposed to bill and, “understands the Council’s desire to help the city protect neighborhoods and tenants affected by foreclosures.”

The Council also approved legislation that will require the city to publish information about city contracts online, summarized into plain language. There are more than 15,000 contracts in the city budget, but none of that information is readily available to the public.

City Council Finance Division Director Preston Niblack said agency contract officers will be responsible for entering the summary contract information into a database that will be made public.

The database would be available on July 1, 2012, and should be fully complete by July 1, 2013.

Both bills have the support of Mayor Bloomberg.