Carrying signs that read, “housing is a human right,” they marched through the streets with a marching band and group of elected officials, stopping at several buildings in the neighborhood they say are in desperate need of repair.
They called for 40 percent more buildings to be recognized under the Alternative Enforcement Program (AEP), a local law that currently enforces penalties on city landlords in 200 buildings who do not correct overdue housing violations issued by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).
Councilman Erik Martin Dilan, chairman of the Housing and Buildings Committee, said that while AEP has been a success for the buildings involved in the program, there are many families and buildings that are not included and in need of repair.
“We’ll seek to do the expansion,” Dilan assured the crowd.
He added that while many buildings that are recognized in the program do see repairs, one thing he will focus on is landlords who use the AEP regulatory improvement standards as a way to capitalize on rent increases.
“I’m very concerned about the displacement,” he said. “If the City of New York comes in and bankrolls your repairs, you shouldn’t be allowed to charge a rent increase to your tenants or move your tenants out to get another tenant who would pay a substantially higher rent.”
Make the Road advocates are also calling on HPD to regularly follow up with tenants about the progress of their repairs, as well as for the city to release a list of landlords in the program.
Additionally, they have called for the city to establish a Repair Enforcement Board to ensure violations have been addressed with the power to impose and collect fines.
Councilwoman Diana Reyna agreed that while the program has been successful at holding landlords accountable over the years, there is still a need for more.
"The preservation of our community begins with securing safe homes for families,” Reyna said. “This is the type of program that should be expanded to help even more tenants in need."