Accounting for the City’s Vacant Lots

(Photo via Gotham Gazette)

(Photo via Gotham Gazette)

Thousands of vacant lots and buildings in New York, many of which have been warehoused for years, may finally be developed if Mayor Bill de Blasio follows through on his pledge to fully tax and develop the properties for affordable housing. But getting an accurate accounting of the properties is proving to be a challenge, Caroline Lewis reports in Gotham Gazette.

At a hearing on vacant properties held by the City Council Committee on Housing and Buildings last month, Vicki Been, the new commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), indicated that records were incomplete.

There are approximately 7,000 privately owned vacant lots across the city, according to the Department of City Planning. Been said that HPD is aware of about 1,100 vacant city-owned properties, 141 of which have buildings on them.

“But that is not the universe of vacant buildings,” she said.

Both Been and a representative of the city Department of Finance, which keeps records of the city’s privately-owned vacant buildings, said it would be difficult to come up with a precise number of vacant buildings and lots that could be developed for housing.

“It seems like there’s no number to start with, even if it’s wrong,” said a frustrated Jumaane Williams, the new chairman of the Council’s housing and buildings committee.

Meanwhile, in an audit of vacant lot classifications, City Comptroller Scott Stringer found that the city’s Department of Finance “improperly classified the tax and building classes of 308 vacant properties throughout New York City, resulting in an annual real estate tax loss conservatively estimated at $1.7 million.”

To nudge private owners of vacant properties to develop them, the city can impose higher tax rates, which would make it expensive for owners to hold onto the real estate. For more about vacant properties in the city and plans to push for the development of affordable housing on those properties, read the original article.

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