City Council Holds Hearing on Housing Connect 2.0

Anne-Marie Hendrickson and Margaret Brown testify (photo by William Engel)
Anne-Marie Hendrickson and Margaret Brown testify (photo by William Engel)

In 2013, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) launched Housing Connect, the citywide affordable housing portal. Housing Connect allows New Yorkers to search for housing in their area, create a profile, and apply for multiple units at once. Since its inception, it has accumulated a user base of more than 2 million.

This year, the HPD seeks to revamp their housing portal into a new system – one they have named Housing Connect 2.0.

Said reboot was the subject of a recent hearing at City Hall. The hearing took place on Monday, Jan. 13 at 10 a.m. At the helm were Council Members Robert Cornegy, Jr. (D-Brooklyn), Ben Kallos (D-Yorkville, Lenox Hill) and Carlina Rivera (D-East Village, Gramercy Park). The Council heard testimony from two HPD representatives: Anne-Marie Hendrickson, Deputy Commissioner for Asset and Property Management, and Margaret Brown, Associate Commissioner of Housing Opportunities. Council Member Mark Levine (D-Manhattan Valley, Manhattanville) was supposed to accompany them, but had to take leave due to illness.

“We have learned a lot through operating Housing Connect over the past six years,” said Hendricksen. “Housing Connect 2.0 will provide New Yorkers with a more transparent and user-friendly experience. 2.0 will automate, standardize and streamline the applicant eligibility review process with an integrated information exchange between housing developers, applicants and HPD.”

Housing Connect 2.0 will incorporate the changes mandated by Local Law 64, a 2018 law sponsored by Ben Kallos. Said law required landlords to use the portal to register their rent-regulated units with the city. It also instated unit advertising requirements in order to streamline the housing application process.

“What we sought to accomplish with Local Law 64 was to make it easier to find affordable housing,” said Kallos. “We created one place for all city-subsidized affordable housing in one location. More importantly, we ensured that subsidized housing was being offered at affordable rates by requiring registration with the state, and registration with the city.”

The hearing also covered two new proposed amendments to Local Law 64: Int. 1757 and 1783. Int. 1757, sponsored by Ben Kallos, would alter the city’s administrative code to accommodate the new law. The second, more contentious amendment, sponsored by Mark Levine, would exclude cooperatives from the requirements of the housing portal.

Affordable co-ops, also known as Housing Development Fund Corporations (HDFCs), are subject to the new regulations of Local Law 64, despite being privately owned. This, said Levine, could open HDFC shareholders to serious fines for failing to comply.

“Local Law 64 was meant to target deep-pocketed developers who were trying to avoid filling rent-regulated units in their buildings,” said Levine. “For years HDFCs have faced attacks and indifference from city leaders and I refuse to stand by as they face yet another dire threat posed by Local Law 64 in its current form. This new legislation will help to eliminate this threat.”

The Council also heard testimony from HDFC Coalition member Michael Palma, who echoed Levine’s sentiments.

“On behalf of the HDFC Coalition, and the families who live in New York’s 1,200 HDFCs, we would like to express our strong and emphatic support for Int. 1783,’ said Palma. “The HDFC Coaltion remains ever vigilant when city or state policy is developed for HDFCs, especially when well-meaning legislation has consequences for HDFCs and their shareholders.”

During their opening testimony, the HPD representatives confirmed that they fully supported Int. 1783.

“We support Council Member Levine’s bill to remove cooperatives from the requirements of the bill, a unique and critical piece of affordable housing stock,” said Anne-Marie Hendrickson.

As of now Housing Connect 2.0 is still in the testing stages. Margaret Brown has pledged that it will be completed by July 1, and will probably reach that point “about a month before”.