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Controversial Housing Bill Dead

January 5, 2008

A controversial housing bill is dead, after its sponsors – Bronx Council members Maria Baez and Joel Rivera – dropped it amidst stern opposition and claims that the legislation would threaten affordable housing. The bill’s defeat, in early December, seems to have cleared the path for a different bill, the so-called Tenant Protection Act, which is supported by tenant rights groups and the majority of the City Council.

If passed, the Tenant Protection Act will allow tenants to sue landlords for harassment in Housing Court. (Anti-harassment legislation is needed, say advocates, because landlords are increasingly trying to force out long-term tenants so they can bring in new tenants with deeper pockets. Baez’s bill would have allowed tenants to sue for harassment, but, crucially, it would have empowered landlords to sue tenants for the same thing.)

The controversy surrounding Baez’s bill was covered in the December issue of the Mount Hope Monitor. There was also a story in the Village Voice, which suggested, among other things, that Rivera threw his weight behind Baez’s bill because the real estate industry is helping to fund his (expected) run for borough president. Rivera, himself, told the Voice that his opposition stemmed from concerns that the legislation would result in tenants bringing frivolous cases against their landlords.

The media attention led off from a protest outside Baez’s district office on Nov. 27, which was organized by Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA). At the time, Baez’s office issued a statement in which Baez said, “We are having a healthy discussion and debate about both bills.”

With Baez and Rivera’s retreat, the debate, it would seem, is now officially over.

By JAMES FERGUSSON of the Mount Hope Monitor

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