Monday, March 21, 2011

Daily News Finds NYC Politicians Routinely Flout Tax Law and Affordable Housing Rules

Should it be a surprise that Charles Rangel was hardly alone when he flouted tax laws and affordable housing rules? It turns out that the problem is hardly an extreme example. In fact, politicians are flouting the rules at seemingly every opportunity, and several may not be living in the districts they claim to represent:
One got city-backed affordable housing, though he and his wife were at least $40,000 over the income limit.

Another got a subsidized co-op, then bought a $90,000 brownstone.

Yet another ignored city inspectors investigating if he had an illegally converted apartment.

All these practices surfaced in a three-month Daily News investigation, based on a review of thousands of pages of records regarding judgments, liens, tax history, property ownership, building-code violations and financial disclosure.

Government reform advocates were floored by The News' findings.

"I'm just stunned," said Citizens Union executive director Dick Dadey. "It's troubling that so many Council members who are sworn to uphold the law are in fact in trouble with the law or have skirted the law."


Councilmen Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn), Fernando Cabrera (D-Bronx), Peter Koo (R-Queens) and Matthieu Eugene (D-Brooklyn) all got tax breaks by claiming to live somewhere outside their council districts.

Council members must live in their district, but these four claim homes they own elsewhere as "primary residences." That entitles them to School Tax Relief (STAR), which trims hundreds of dollars off their property taxes.
I believe that a completely and hopelessly complex tax policy has so totally screwed up priorities and the need to secure tax credits and breaks to make home ownership seem affordable is driving at least some of this.

However, there is no excuse for ignorance of the law, or for the affordable home programs. Either you are qualified to obtain affordable housing breaks, or you aren't. These politicians have not only taken advantage of the affordable housing breaks, but they've deprived other worthy and qualified persons from obtaining that limited housing stock.

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