N.Y. AG candidate unveils housing plan

Jessica M. Karmasek Aug. 27, 2010, 11:55am


NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - This week, New York Democratic attorney general-hopeful Sean Coffey laid out a plan for what he would do about housing if he were to get the job come November.

Coffey's plan includes a crackdown on predatory lending, predatory equity, shoddy construction of buildings, housing discrimination and mortgage foreclosure scams.

Coffey said in a statement, "As the next Attorney General, I will make housing reform a top priority. Millions of New Yorkers are struggling to make ends meet as the unemployment rate continues to stagnate and the economic recovery has yet to emerge.

"As Attorney General, I will use the powers and authority of the office to the fullest extent possible to achieve housing reform. By addressing the growing housing crisis in smart and effective ways, we can put hardworking New York families back on stable financial footing."

His first step, he said, is to establish a task force within the Attorney General's Office, comprised of representatives from his office and those from federal, state and local agencies, and the private sector.

The task force, Coffey said, will coordinate the various housing mandates across these agencies; be primarily responsible for enforcing existing housing laws designed to protect homeowners and tenants; draft proposed legislation where there are gaps; and monitor and identify the "most pressing problems."

He also would crack down on predatory lending. "No one, and certainly not the State Attorney General, can ignore the damage done by those engaged in fraudulent practices that led to this economic devastation," Coffey said.

The Democratic candidate also said he would go after those involved in predatory equity. Predatory equity is the practice in which entities purchase rent-controlled housing and use various means to drive out tenants to get much higher market-driven rents.

These evictions, Coffey explained, are carried out through all manner of corrupt practices, such as fake eviction notices, false claims of back rent due, and allowing units to fall into disrepair.

He also would like to establish a hot line for residents to call to report scams and receive advice or legal referrals.

Coffey said he would also continue to advocate for affordable housing programs, and improve upon them.

He said, if elected to office, he also would better enforce Section 3 public housing, or housing for those low-income residents. Coffey said, "Section 3 is often the first step to self- sufficiency as it provides work opportunities for residents in the surrounding community." Unfortunately, compliance with the law has been minimal, he said.

Shoddy construction, he said, is another issue he vows to take up if chosen for the attorney general position. He points to cooperatives and new condo development, in particular.

"Residents often have very little legal recourse against developers because sponsors typically control a condo board for a year or more after a building opens, leaving the residents with little or no time to sue a developer or construction contractors for negligence," he explained.

Coffey, one of five Democratic candidates for attorney general, also said he'd have no tolerance for housing discrimination.

"For too long communities of color, seniors and low income families have been subjected to discriminatory practices in housing," he said. "As Attorney General I vow to fight housing discrimination wherever it appears including instances involving new parents, expectant mothers and members of the (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered) community."

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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