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Multifamily Preservation Bill Moves Forward
Preservation advocates have been working for several years on new federal preservation legislation designed to plug many longstanding gaps in the preservation safety net.  This summer has finally seen the introduction of HR 4868, the Housing Preservation and Tenant Protection Act of 2010, introduced in the US House by Congressman Barney Frank.  On July 27, 2010, the House Committee on Financial Services reported out the bill, a big step forward.
This bill is extensive, and addresses many issues across an array of HUD and USDA (Rural Development) subsidized multifamily programs.  Although most provisions of the bill are non-controversial, several provisions dear to preservation advocates, have drawn opposition from for-profit owner groups.  Among the provisions that HJC and its allies are fighting for:
  • Allowing state and local preservation initiatives.  Several court decisions have nullified an array of important state and local preservation tools, on the grounds that current federal preservation laws have preempted the field, thus blocking additional preservation protections which states and cities intended to supplement federal provisions.

  • Right of First Refusal.  Although watered down from earlier versions, the bill still contains a provision enabling preservation purchasers acting on behalf of tenants to meet a proposed purchase price and buy the property, in certain circumstances.

  • Tenant Access to Information.  The bill provides that in certain circumstances, tenants in these properties are entitled to important financial and other relevant information about the property; owners have resisted having to provide this.

  • Judicial enforcement against non-complying owners.  When tenants seek to enforce federal preservation laws against private owners, their right to do so is currently unsettled and ambiguous.  Advocates are seeking to clarify that tenants are entitled to enforce the various use agreements between the government and private owners that are supposed to be for the benefit of the tenants.
For a more complete description of the provisions of HR 4868, click here.  There is no companion bill yet in the Senate, as of August 2010.