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NYC landlord fines to help fund affordable housing

Mayor Bill de Blasio discuss affordable housing at

Mayor Bill de Blasio discuss affordable housing at a press conference held at Institute for Community Living in Brooklyn, on Mar. 10, 2016. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

New York City will put nearly $10 million in penalties collected from “bad actor” developers and landlords toward the initial costs of building 600 affordable apartments, Mayor Bill de Blasio and State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said Thursday.

The 23 property owners “took tax breaks and then broke all the rules” by denying rent-stabilized leases, violating tenants’ legal rights and failing to provide fair wages to workers, de Blasio said.

They were exposed in a Schneiderman probe that began in 2014. Some defied the terms of the 421-a property tax abatement program that expired in January and that the mayor has lobbied Albany to revive and reform.

“That money now can go to a particularly important purpose,” de Blasio said of Schneiderman’s settlement fund. The mayor and attorney general spoke at the site of a future 129-unit supportive housing development in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, that will benefit from it.

The restitution will also be spent on housing for veterans, seniors, low-income families and the formerly homeless, de Blasio said.

Jackhammers and other construction noise echoed in the background during the news conference. Residential skyscrapers were rising around the site, evidence of a fast-developing neighborhood.

“The real estate market here has never been hotter,” Schneiderman said of the city, “and it’s up to those of us in government to ensure that while people are building and making money, all of the people of the city . . . are able to share in it.”

The “financing packages” to cover the remainder of the costs of the 600 lower-rent units were still being put together, and the city is working with the state, city Housing Commissioner Vicki Been said.

De Blasio said he had “no idea” whether the 421-a initiative will be ultimately included in the separate budget resolutions now under discussion by the State Senate and Assembly. He reiterated that he wanted the program reformed but not scrapped entirely.

“There’s a lot of awareness in Albany that this is part of how we create affordable housing,” he said. “Without action, a certain amount of affordable housing will keep waiting and can’t be built,” de Blasio said.

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