This story is getting old: irresponsible loans given to irresponsible landlords. Our heads are still spinning from the last round of predatory equity, yet here we are, witnessing the continued repetition of worst practices in housing. We yelled about it then, and now, with voices hoarse but persistent, we keep yelling in hopes that our pleas might penetrate the iron walls of the bank.
In the last few weeks, tenants who live in the eight buildings owned by New York Affordable Housing Associates (NYAHA), and in the midst of the foreclosure process with New York Community Bank (NYCB), have risen up to demand an end to the bad conditions that characterize the tacitly accepted lower standard of living in the Bronx. These buildings went into foreclosure in November 2009 when NYAHA, a conglomeration of some of New York’s most infamous landlords, defaulted on two mortgages with an outstanding debt of $15,918,254. Riddled with 1,610 code violations across the eight buildings, two of the buildings have racked up so many violations that they’ve been placed in the Alternative Enforcement Program, an HPD initiative to more closely monitor and enforce urgent repair work in the 200 worst buildings in the city.
Some tenants in the buildings have lived there for much of their adult lives and many others are new residents ushered in by various Department of Homeless Services (DHS) programs. Long term tenants have watched their homes deteriorate from beneath their feet, quite literally, as floors droop inward due to excessive mold and water damage. Tenants who came from the shelters wonder if perhaps things were better where they came from.
Following the rejection of the bid made by tenant-endorsed prospective buyer Mutual Housing Association of New York (MHANY), tenants stepped up their campaign against NYCB. With the help of UHAB, MHANY, Bronx Legal Services, and the Urban Justice Center, tenants filed the landmark “Milbank lawsuit” which effectively sues the bank in order to get more money allocated to the receiver for building repairs. They also presented the court papers to a local NYCB branch manager while wielding picket signs and marching outside the bank, garnering support for their call to “Write Down Loans, Save Our Homes!”
Unfortunately, despite the pending lawsuit and the tenants’ visible rage, NYCB went ahead and sold the mortgage notes to an unnamed speculator, carrying the still lingering load of unsupportable debt in tow.
Although it seems that the battle to preserve these 8 buildings has now been lost, tenants and organizers are currently brewing up new strategies to challenge NYCB’s systematically damaging lending practices. Here at UHAB we are busy compiling research about other NYCB foreclosures with high code violations and what we are discovering does not bode well for NYCB’s image…
Stay tuned for more information about upcoming actions to expose and tackle this terrible threat to affordable housing in NYC.