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Owners Offer Tax Proposal

Urging alternatives to the city's absentee landlord

surcharge, homeowners groups told officials Friday to tax slumlords instead.

The proposal springs from the threat that the city will soon bill owners of

one-, two- and three-family houses for an absentee surcharge they do not owe.

Current collection plans put the onus on homeowners to prove they live in

the house or don't collect rent, and thus do not owe the 25 percent surcharge.

The city Finance Department said that without such proof they cannot

discern who really owes the tax, budgeted to boost city revenue by $44 million

this year.

"This is guilty 'til proven innocent, and it's time for us to lay off this

particular tax and look at alternatives for raising money for the city," said

Steve Aronson, director of the Pratt Area Community Council.

The Brooklyn-based council and affiliates of church and community groups

connected with Nehemiah homeowners groups said the city should go after

buildings with outstanding housing-code violations. Nehemiah, an

affordable-housing program coordinated through church councils, is supported by

government subsidies.

Unlike the case with absentee landlords, the city's Department of Housing

Preservation and Development has extensive records of numerous residences with

10 or more outstanding code violations, Aronson said.

City officials have yet to react to the proposal. Mayoral and Council aides

met with the representatives Friday.

"So far we are making some progress in terms of repealing the absentee

landlord surcharge," added Bob James, first vice president of the New York

Nehemiah Homeowners Association.

Charles Ossa, vice president of the Brownsville Nehemiah Homeowners

Association, said, "We need the city to rigorously enforce the code [and] slap

an additional surcharge on slumlords to make them wake up. ... That will get

the city needed revenue.

"The absentee landlord surcharge is going to be a nightmare - with

communication, collection, everything. That's why we're here today to say,

repeal it entirely, and the city should look at other revenues," Ossa said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said he supports repealing the surcharge, which

he signed into law July 14.

Council Speaker Gifford Miller opposes a repeal but supports a delay in the

billing until March, giving tax officials time to figure out who really owes

the surcharge.

The Finance Department, meanwhile, has drafted rules calling for the

surcharge to be billed this month but allowing owners until March to file

exemption forms.

Repeal and delay bills are expected to be introduced in the Council next

week.

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