U.S. Reps. Ritchie Torres and Adriano Espaillat Introduce Bold Legislative Package to Address Shortfalls that May Have Contributed to Bronx Building Collapse

Dec 22, 2023
Press

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representatives Ritchie Torres (NY-15) and Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) introduced a legislative package containing two bills, the Building Collapse Prevention Act and the LIHTC Landlord Accountability Act, and a letter to Commissioner Jimmy Oddo of the NYC Department of Buildings. The package was first reported yesterday in the New York Daily News.

On the package, Rep. Ritchie Torres said:

“Building safety is a matter of life and death. If we as elected officials see something on the ground, it is incumbent on us to say something. And more than saying something, we should have the power to act. The federal government is the principal funder of affordable housing in the country. Therefore, as elected representatives it is paramount that we have a vested interest in ensuring that affordable housing is structurally sound and that the people who live there are physically safe. I am proud to partner with Congressman Espaillat on these crucial pieces of legislation to protect our communities and ensure that we do whatever we can to prevent another horrific building collapse.”

Rep. Adriano Espaillat said: 

“The partial collapse of what we witnessed at Billingsley Terrace or what could potentially happen at any building in and around New York City is deeply troubling and could have devastating consequences in a city as populously dense as ours. This shocking and unfortunate incident could have been prevented and it remains incumbent on us, as public officials, to ensure the necessary resources and oversight to prevent incidents like this from occurring in the future. Our legislative package ensures necessary mechanisms are in place to provide oversight and accountability to advance the safety and integrity of buildings across our city.”

The Building Collapse Prevention Act would require the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to establish a program with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to inspect federally assisted rental housing, including public housing, buildings that accept Section 8 funds, and any other building that accepts federal housing funding. NIST must inspect a building if HUD, a member of the House of Representatives or Senate requests an inspection of a building or a building collapse. A member of the House may only request an inspection of a building that is within the Congressional district that they represent, and a Senator may only request an inspection of a building that is within their state. This request can only be made if there has been a violation of local construction or building safety codes or an inspection report that finds structural issues with a building and therefore could lead to a building collapse. 

The LIHTC Landlord Accountability Act would require all Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) buildings, both new and existing, to prove complete architectural safety to receive the affordable housing tax credit. It would mandate that landlords submit an annual report to the U.S. Department of Treasury detailing their eligibility and structural soundness that must be proved through a thorough architectural analysis. It would require that the Department of Treasury fine LIHTC landlords $500,000 for noncompliance in these annual reports. Lastly, it would require the Department of Treasury, in consultation with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, to publish a report on best practices for LIHTC landlords to employ to ensure safety and integrity in our nation’s largest affordable housing program.

The letter to Commissioner Oddo includes the following ask from the two Congressmen:

“We are formally requesting the New York City Department of Buildings (NYC DOB) provide a report to our offices of measurements to be taken to prevent the recurrence of such incidents and recommendations that the city, state, and federal government can take to help the NYC DOB advance the safety and integrity of buildings in our city. We are also requesting that the NYC DOB submit a list of structurally unsound, unstable, and defective buildings broken down by neighborhood. Finally, we are requesting an investigation into the possible role the nearby Department of Design and Construction water main installation may have played in the degradation of the structural integrity of the building. This report should be submitted within 14 days of receiving this letter, considering the urgency and gravity of the situation.”

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