Thursday, May 11, 2017

Another Gov't Housing Program Gone Haywire? NYC's Biggest Slumlord (Itself) Faces Intense Heat For Both Alleged Corruption & General Goofing-Off By Employees Surrounding Program Designed To Allow Poor Tenants To Buy Their Apartments In City-Owned Buildings For $250; A "Freaking Disaster Zone" Says Ex-Employee Of Those Running Outfit

In New York City, DNA Info (NYC) reports:
  • A city-backed housing program that advocates say has not delivered on its promise of offering tenants apartments for next to nothing is coming under intense scrutiny from investigators and the city's public advocate.

    The Tenant Interim Lease program (TIL), which was meant to be a pathway for renters in city-owned buildings to purchase their units for just $250, is currently being probed by the Department of Investigation for issues ranging from stolen money to city employees slacking off, sources and reports said.

    Now, Public Advocate Letitia James is calling for an independent review of the program, which she said has been inadequately funded and poorly managed by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

    “As our city faces a crisis in affordable housing, it is shocking that a city-run program is allowing hundreds of affordable units to remain vacant,” James said, noting that roughly 40 percent of the more than 2,300 units in TIL buildings are empty.

    Tenants and advocates have labeled the program a “failure,” noting that many buildings have fallen into disrepair while residents have waited years to buy them.

    The public advocate's criticism of the program has been laid out in a policy brief expected to be released Thursday, as the City Council's Committee on Housing and Buildings conducts an oversight hearing on the program.

    The brief states that the program is “rife with corruption” and that HPD “has not adequately performed their jobs, because they were frequently unavailable or unreliable, inadequately trained or inexperienced, or failed to follow-up on critical matters.”

    It also comes amid the DOI investigation, which has been ongoing for more than a year, the New York Post reported.

    The probe reportedly includes investigating money stolen from a tenant association by residents, tenants allowing squatters to live rent-free and HPD employees slacking off.

    The DOI would not confirm the investigation and declined to comment further, a spokeswoman said.

    A former HPD employee, who spoke to DNAinfo New York on the condition of anonymity, characterized the agency as incompetent and called the unit overseeing the TIL program a “freaking disaster zone.”

    “The biggest and only reason why the unit is a failure is the staff. The whole unit in itself needs a complete overhaul… everyone needs to go,” the former employee said.

    “You wonder why HPD is considered the slumlord of the city because tenants don’t want to deal with them."

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