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Healthy Housing Victories Spur Inspections of Hazardous Homes

Winning Healthier Housing
Fabian Rivera showing organizers a dangerous ceiling hole in the bathroom of his Bed-Stuy apartment building, one of 192 housing code violations in the building. Photo: Make the Road New York

Irania Sanchez had been living with mold, spotty heat and hot water, and "rats as big as cats" for the last five years. She and other family members who live in her building suffered from severe asthma—a result of these dangerous housing conditions. Her landlord repeatedly refused to make repairs. Make the Road New York worked with the City's housing department to threaten legal action and organized a rally that successfully prompted the landlord to begin making repairs.

Make the Road has also battled successfully to make sure tenants around the City are living in buildings that are up to code. With a $35,000 grant from The Trust, it helped pass the Safe Housing Act—a piece of legislation that promotes real accountability for negligent landlords who fail to repair violations that the City deems "immediately hazardous."

The Fifth Avenue Committee and the Association of Neighborhood and Housing Development are two other nonprofits that work on behalf of New Yorkers. With a $35,000 grant from The Trust, the Fifth Avenue Committee documented the direct connection between health problems, such as asthma, and poor living conditions that cause and exacerbate them. This research is a key part of efforts to reclassify health-related housing code violations in the City, helping to get toxic homes cleaned up faster and more thoroughly.

"Under the Safe Housing Act, thousands of dangerous apartments are being inspected and repaired, allowing low-income and immigrant families to live in healthy and safe conditions. Tenants who live in problem buildings will get comprehensive repairs, not just band-aid fixes. We are excited that we are finally seeing change," said Angel Vera, an organizer with Make the Road New York.

Fabian Rivera, a tenant who has lived for more than ten years in a Bed-Stuy building with 192 housing code violations, testifies to the change that he has seen as a result of this legislation.

"In my apartment there are many violations and the landlord has never wanted to do the repairs well. Right now, the worst is the bathroom. I called him and told him that the ceiling fell and that my son is living in dangerous conditions. The bad conditions are effecting us psychologically and physically, especially my child. I always call the landlord, and he says that he's coming to repair problems, but when he comes, he only wants to collect the rent, but I have stopped paying because it is not just to live in these kind of conditions. Now the HPD inspectors are coming almost every day. I have confidence that the City will do the repairs because that is what the law demands."

With a grant of $65,000, the Association of Neighborhood and Housing Development won a commitment from the Bloomberg administration to implement the Targeted Code Enforcement Program by building broad public support through dozens of community events and briefings for policymakers and civic associations. "This program helps tenants and the City systematically go after landlords until they make repairs," says deputy director of the Association, Benjamin Dulchin, "It gives the City a sharper set of tools and more power to use them."

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