Electeds form West Bronx Housing Coalition

Three of the nine members of the West Bronx Housing Coalition: (l to r) Assemblyman Michael Blake, Councilman Vanessa Gibson and Senator Gustavo Rivera.
Photo courtesy of Senator Rivera’s office

West Bronx elected officials are joining forces in order to address housing issues in their districts.

Senator Gustavo Rivera announced the formation of the West Bronx Housing Coalition on March 12, which will bring his colleagues in city and state government together to address issues of housing and afforability.

Involved in the effort are Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner, Councilman Andrew Cohen, Assemblyman Victor Pichardo, Councilman Ritchie Torres, Assemblyman Jose Rivera, and Assemblyman Michael Blake.

Their districts include the neighborhoods of Kingsbridge, Fordham Heights, Belmont, University Heights, Mount Hope and East Tremont.

“The idea here is if we bring resources from all our offices together, then we can really bring attention to this issue,” said Rivera.

One goal of the coalition is to renew and strengthen the state’s rent regulation rules, which expire in June, said Rivera. Neighborhoods in the west Bronx have a particularly high concentration of rent-stabilized apartments, he said, and there is a real need to preserve their status.

“Without rent stabilization laws, housing would be entirely unaffordable to families of the west Bronx,” said Torres in the announcement.

Assemblyman Victor Pichardo said the majority of tenants in his district struggle to provide a roof over their head.

Rivera said he sees an affordability crisis across the city and in the west Bronx, and that housing issues, alongside unemployment, is the problem most often brought up to his office by constituents.

And while there are many upstanding landlords in his district, Rivera said there are a number of bad ones who try to force tenants out of their apartments so that rent can be raised above the level of rent stabilization and converted to market-rate apartments.

“The financial incentive of removing rent-stabilized tenants places these residents at risk for the worst abuses by malevolent landlords: harassment and the denial of repairs,” said Torres.

The coalition also plans to develop a process for identifying bad landlords and addressing recurrent issues across properties, said Rivera.

“Our communities have been wounded by too many stories of unjust evictions, unwarranted harassment, and unanswered property management complaints,” said Gibson. “Working together, this coalition will be able to address these growing issues holistically and turn the tide on negligent landlords and predatory buyers.”

This spring, the coalition will host a series of forums across the west Bronx to educate residents about rent regulation laws and their rights, said Rivera. He encouraged local residents to attend, and to continue to reach out to their elected officials offices.

“We’re giving the tenants the tools they need to address their housing issues,” he said.

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at 718-260-4591. E-mail her at jwilliams@cnglocal.com.

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