Testimony Of Lucy Block Before The New York City Council Regarding Multiple Bills: The Expansion Of The Certificate Of No Harassment Program (T2021-7888), The Affordable Housing Lottery (Int 1817), And A Mandatory Registration System For Short-Term Rental

Thank you for holding the September 13 hearing on multiple important pieces of legislation. My name is Lucy Block and I’m a Research and Policy Associate at the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD). ANHD is a member organization whose mission is to build community power to win affordable housing and thriving, equitable neighborhoods for all New Yorkers. We believe housing justice is economic justice is racial justice. Our members are neighborhood-based affordable housing and equitable economic development organizations across New York City.


ANHD coordinates the Coalition Against Tenant Harassment (CATHnyc), which formed in 2016 and worked with Council Member Brad Lander to win the passage of the CONH Pilot Program in 2017.

The purpose of the program is to disincentivize tenant harassment, protect affordable housing, and stop the systematic displacement of New York City’s low-income communities of color. CATHnyc’s December 2020 evaluation[1] of the pilot program revealed a necessity for CONH to be expanded and adjusted to achieve its intended impacts. The CONH renewal under consideration does this, and CATHnyc urges the City Council to pass the bill.

Our recent research has shown that tenant harassment is not sufficiently disincentivized and landlords are not held accountable. CATHnyc’s recent analysis of housing court records showed that between 2016 and mid-2021, at most 165 cases involving tenant harassment were resolved in favor of tenants. That is just 2.3% of all 7,126 cases, and is an average of just 30 rulings in favor of tenants per year. This is why we need a strong and effective CONH program. Along with this testimony, I have provided a fact sheet on our research for additional information.

Landlords and their representatives have argued that the CONH Pilot Program prevents landlords from making necessary repairs in their buildings. At your September 13 hearing, one representative called the CONH program a form of redlining. This is false. CONH requirements apply to full and partial demolition of a building, change of use or occupancy, addition or removal of kitchens or bathrooms, changes in the number of dwelling units, changes in unit layouts, new or amended certificates of occupancy, and replacing a central heating system with individual meters.[2] These covered categories of work closely mirror CONH programs that have existed for decades in special districts and single room occupancies across the city and they are explicitly designed to cover work that increases profits for landlords rather than allowing a landlord to conduct routine and necessary maintenance and repairs. We absolutely share the goal of allowing landlords to maintain and improve housing conditions for their tenants with landlord advocates and with city agencies. The program is limited to work that demolishes or changes the occupancy or layout of units and does not create barriers for necessary maintenance work.  The current regulations do not prevent landlords from making good faith, necessary repairs, though they do deter unnecessary construction to harass and displace tenants, and make it nearly  impossible to alter the occupancy of units in ways that would remove them from rent regulation.

Failure to make repairs over time is in itself a prevalent form of tenant harassment, and is often undertaken by making units uninhabitable or hazardous in hopes of removing lower paying long term tenants. The CONH program holds landlords accountable for such behavior by providing a check at the time of applications for construction permits. Only with a stable, consistent, and broadly applied CONH program will it become standard practice for landlords to stop engaging in harassing activity so that when they do want to obtain relevant permits, they can reliably obtain the necessary CONH.

ANHD and CATHnyc celebrate the expansion of the CONH program and would like to emphasize our position that two main components of the proposed legislation are critically necessary in order to ensure an expanded CONH achieves its intended impact:

  1. Expansion of buildings that are included on the CONH pilot program list:
    • The proposed legislation includes adding buildings within districts that are determined by HPD to be at high risk for displacement pursuant to the displacement risk index that New York City is now developing after the passage of Int 1572-B. The passage of requirements to comprehensively analyze displacement risk citywide was a major victory for equity and racial justice. The purpose of CONH is to disincentivize tenant harassment, which is most prevalent in areas with the greatest risk of displacement – that is, the areas where landlords have the most profit to gain by harassing and displacing their tenants. Therefore, the inclusion of buildings in these districts on the CONH pilot program list is of critical importance for making sure the program achieves its intended impact.
    • The proposed legislation also expands which buildings are included on the pilot program list in additional important ways: buildings with a 7A appointment, buildings where the landlord has failed to comply with a Tenant Protection Plan, buildings on the Speculation Watchlist, and buildings with significant Department of Buildings and Department of Health violations. 
  2. Compensation to tenants after a finding of harassment through the CONH process:
    • The CONH process requires tenants to participate extensively in providing comments and potentially testifying in an administrative hearing in order to establish a history of harassment when a landlord applies for a CONH. Yet currently, there are no direct benefits to tenants for doing so; they have already experienced harassment and even with the denial of a CONH do not receive any redress. Vitally important to the proposed legislation is the provision that HPD’s finding that a landlord has harassed tenants would result in direct compensation to the tenants who experienced such harassment. The proposed redress will mean that tenants are not expected to devote their time and energy to the CONH process without any hope of remediation.

We thank Council Member Lander and Speaker Johnson for their partnership in drafting strong legislation to support the program. We support the proposed legislation and encourage the Council to swiftly pass the bill.



ANHD and our members welcome efforts to make the affordable housing lottery process more transparent, fair and efficient; however we believe that Intro 1817 will not achieve these goals and is either redundant to existing policy or would even make the process more burdensome and slow. Some elements of Intro 1817, such as requiring marketing agents not to reject any applicant based solely on their credit score and requiring marketing agents to review and evaluate all sources of an applicant’s income, are not problematic in any way are are in fact positive, but these requirements are already detailed in the most recent HPD Marketing Handbook and are therefore redundant to existing policy. Other elements of Intro 1817, such as requiring marketing agents to provide every applicant with a written notification both by electronic mail and by regular mail, will increase the time, labor and costs of an already tedious lease-up process. Written notifications are already sent to applicants electronically and by regular mail if requested; requiring all notifications to be sent by regular mail will add unnecessary costs and time. ANHD’s members who are developers of affordable housing receive thousands of applications for available units, and as non-profit organizations they have limited staff and resources. We should not add unnecessary burden to the important work they are doing by developing and managing much-needed affordable housing.

ANHD does believe that the affordable housing lottery process should be improved, particularly in ways that make the process more clear and streamlined for both marketing agents and applicants, since this will lead to a more time- and cost-efficient lease up process and prevent a backlog of available apartments sitting empty.  However Intro 1817 overall will not improve the lottery process in this way and therefore we are not in support of this bill. We suggest the Council explore other strategies to support HPD in making sure they have the staff and resources needed to improve Housing Connect 2.0 and make it more transparent and efficient. Finding other smart, strategic ways to improve the lottery and lease-up process is crucial; we cannot afford to have available affordable units sitting empty when so many New Yorkers need them so desperately. 



ANHD would like to voice its support for Intro 2309, and applauds the Speaker’s office and members of the council for taking the necessary step of creating specific parameters for those wishing to rent out their homes on a short-term basis. We believe that the passage of such legislation would provide drastically improved oversight and transparency among hosting sites such as Airbnb, VRBO and others. 

Prior to COVID-19 there were more than 50,000 short-term rentals, 50% were"un-hosted" with no resident present.  In December 2020, the city itself estimated that "up to 15,000 units of housing had been removed from the market by both single [short-term rental] hosts and property managers." Neighborhoods and communities across the city have challenges in controlling the impact from illegal short-term rentals and ANHD’s member groups have spent time and resources organizing against full-time illegal conversions, hosting in unsafe buildings, the removal and misuse of rent-regulated properties and the incursion of tourists into residential buildings.

Intro 2309 is a mandatory registration system for all short-term rentals in New York City.  This legislation would require any host seeking to rent out rooms in dwelling units, or housing accommodations within a building, for fewer than 30 consecutive days, to register annually with the Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement and obtain a registration number before being permitted to rent. Only legal short-term rentals would qualify. Platforms or booking services such as Airbnb or HomeAway would be prohibited from listing any accommodation without a valid registration and would be required to verify the registration number of any short-term rental before listing it on their platform.  Additionally, the system ensures that only primary residents may receive permission to operate a short-term rental in their own home, while they are present, according to long-standing New York City and State laws designed to protect housing

The proposed bill includes critical platform accountability so that platforms cannot continue to profit from illegal hotels and that data required regularly from the platforms would allow the city to consistently manage the obligations of residents operating short-term rentals and platforms advertising and participating in this limited economic activity.

Intro 2309 does not change existing housing laws or zoning, apart from changes required to create the registration system and platform agreements, and carefully avoids any unintended consequences which may further impact housing affordability and availability.

ANHD would like to recommend that the Short-Term Rental Registry should be publicly available with registration numbers and complete address information, that the Administering agency should provide an annual report on the operation of the registration system to council and the public and that the bill require appropriate tax registration, collection and payment mechanisms.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify and provide comments on these important pieces of legislation.


Lucy Block

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