Officials Seek Help from NYC Landlords to House Sandy Refugees

Sandy has displaced thousands of families, while leaving many without hot water or heat. Officials are concerned cold temperatures will increase the number of families seeking shelter, and are asking NYC landlords to help house them in vacant units.
November 14, 2012, 5am PST | Jessica Hsu
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"You really need to help out," Shaun Donovan, the federal Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, told real estate executives in Manhattan last week. The meeting was a first step towards "a White House rebuilding program that President Obama is expected to announce on Thursday in Manhattan for New York, New Jersey and possibly Connecticut," adds Charles V. Bagli. Members of the Real Estate Board of New York, the Rent Stabilization Association and the New York Association for Affordable Housing also met with officials to discuss the possibility of a public-private partnership to help families displaced by Sandy.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) currently provides a monthly rental assistance of $1,800 for up to 18 months. Officials and landlords have discussed "a system by which people who apply to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for housing could be matched with landlords who have vacant apartments," writes Bagli. "The tenants would pay rent directly with a FEMA voucher, or obtain an apartment through an agency like the Red Cross." However, there is concern that assistance from FEMA may only be enough to cover units in Brooklyn and Queens, not Manhattan.

While landlords are open to lending assistance, Bagli notes, they have "raised a series of statutory and legal hurdles that would have to be overcome." These include provisions for short-term tenants and indemnification for apartment damages and forced eviction. "'People want to do the right thing,' said Charles Dorego, senior vice president of Glenwood Management, a major Manhattan landlord, who attended the meetings on behalf of the Real Estate Board. 'But they don't want to inherit a pig in a poke.'"

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Published on Sunday, November 11, 2012 in The New York Times
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