Legislation that would target buildings with the highest ratios of heat violations to units appears to be gaining momentum at the City Council.
As it is currently written, Intro. 948-A, which was introduced by Council Member Ritchie Torres in late 2018, would require the City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to identify a minimum of 50 residential buildings every two years with the highest ratio of heat violations and make it the responsibility of the owner to install a temperature sensing device in each apartment in the building.
The device must read the indoor temperature not less than once per hour and, either by itself or in combination with another device, record or report such temperatures, along with the date and time. The owner would then have to make available to HPD the data collected from the devices. The length of time in which the device will stay in place will be determined by HPD once the final rules are promulgated the agency.
RSA has been very critical of the bill from when the City Council Committee on Housing and Buildings first held a hearing on it in October 2018. RSA believes it a waste of valuable resources that would be better invested into necessary improvements for aging buildings. Currently, HPD already has numerous existing programs and methods to enforce heating requirements and that the agency has a litigation division that is dedicated to the enforcement of serious heating violations. At the time of the hearing, HPD also reiterated RSA’s concerns. RSA also argues that if the existing programs are insufficient, HPD should modify the existing DEP Alternative Enforcement Program (AEP) to permit better targeting of heat-related cases.
Frank Ricci, RSA’s Director of Governmental Affairs, testified that a temperature sensing device in an individual unit will more than likely be subject to unintentional manipulation by a tenant. It is common for a tenant to open at least one window during heat season if the apartment is too warm and if the window is open even for a brief period, a temperature sensing device would generate enough data to make it seem as if heat is not properly distributed in that particular apartment. Despite these arguments and support from HPD, the only change made to the proposed legislation was the number of required buildings that HPD must target. The original bill called for a minimum of 150 repeat violators to be targeted by the agency and now would require HPD to identify no less than 50.
RSA continues to raise various concerns. However, as we went to press, the legislation was set to be voted out of the Committee on Housing and Buildings and passed by the entire Council soon after. We will update you in the next issue of the RSA Reporter