Page images

tures showed great increases: sixty dwellings in the first half year of 1921, estimated to cost $1,631,500, as against ten in 1920, figured at $555,000; and forty-two tenements, representing $9,660,000, against fifteen the previous year, costing $7,925,000.14

Figures compiled by the building bureaus of all five boroughs of New York City for nineteen weeks, from February 25th, to July 9th, 1921, show plans filed for 11,902 dwelling houses and 8,995 apartments—accommodating all told 20,897 families—at a cost of a round $100,000,000. In the same period the previous year, when the tax exemption laws were not effective, quarters for 6,604 families were provided all told, at a total cost of $37,143,000. The Borough of Brooklyn leads in the renewed building activity. 15

We quote the following from a very recent statement of the superintendent of buildings of the Borough of the Bronx as to conditions existing in that Borough:

• 16

“That the tenseness in the housing situation in the Bronx will be relieved within the near future is evidenced by the remarkable increase in plans for new residence buildings now being filed in the Bureau of Buildings. Comparison of the number of dwellings and tenements projected during the first seven months of this year with the same period last year will bear out my conclusions that the near future holds relief for homeless folks of the Bronx.

“In 1920, during the first seven months, plans were filed for seventeen tenements, to hold 691 families and cost $2,685,000, and 375 dwellings with accommodations for 495 families and to cost $3,021,755. Altogether, homes for 1,186 families were planned

14 The New York Times, Real Estate Section, July 10, 1921.

16 Borough-President Henry H. Curran, of Manhattan, in the “New York Times,” July 18, 1921, at page 15.

16 Statement of P. J. Reville, appearing in "N. Y. Tribune," August 28, between January and July last year. My figures for the same period for this year show plans for homes for 5,177 families, to cost $21,266,890, as against $5,706,755 for the corresponding period of 1920. I find that 106 tenement houses have been planned this year, to cost $15,557,000. They will provide housings for 4,013 families. The dwellings planned up to the end of July will give homes to 1,164 families. There were 933 such buildings projected, to cost $5,709,890. Since the first of the month the planning of small homes has shown sensational development.

“While the reduction in the cost of building materials has contributed somewhat to the revival of tenement house construction, the housing situation, in so far as the working class is concerned, will not be improved to any appreciable extent, for the tenement houses now under construction will not permit moderate rents.”

While undoubtedly much of the building now in progress is of high-class structures with expensive rentals, and so does not meet the need which is most urgent, it seems not too much to expect that soon these laws will be more generally recognized as offering substantial inducements to new construction. Taken as a whole, they may yet prove to contain spurs to construction more than adequate to offset their effect as a deterrent thereto.


Analysis and Explanation of Housing Laws—Division into

“Temporary and “Permanent Laws

For purposes of analysis, these “Housing Laws” may conveniently be divided into two groups, those intended to be permanent, and those designed for temporary existence to meet the emergency. In the former category belong

! Chapters 130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 135, 138, 209, 210, 943, 946, 949,4, 5 950, 951, 952 and 953 of the Laws of 1920, and Chapters 165, 298 and 444 of the Laws of 1921.6

What these laws accomplish we may now discuss, considering them in the order in which they are stated.

Chapter 130. This is perhaps the most important and the most misunderstood of the so-called "permanent” laws. It applies only to New York City, and, being short, is quoted here in full:

· For this division, the authors are indebted to Mr. Justice Frederick Spiegelberg's lecture upon the subject of the Municipal Court, delivered before the Association of the Bar of the City of New York on December 23, 1920.

2 Amended by Chap. 951 of the Laws of 1920.
* Repealed by Chap. 947 of the Laws of 1920.
* Amended by Chap. 444 of the Laws of 1921.

6 This law is the tax-exemption statute, and while really a temporary law, is inserted here because it is one of the statutes intended to work a permanent relief from the housing shortage.

6 The foregoing laws (in their amended form, if amended) will be found printed in their entirety in Appendix A.

7 Laws of 1920.
8 It is an amendment of the Real Property Law, section 232.

"An agreement for the occupation of real estate in the City of New York, which shall not particularly specify the duration of the occupation, shall be deemed to continue until the first day of October next after the possession commences under the agreement."

In 1918, the so-called “Ottinger Law”, was passed. It

9 is profitable to quote this vexing statute here also:

“An agreement for the occupation of real estate in the City of New York, shall create a tenancy from month to month, unless the duration of the occupation shall be specified in writing by the parties thereto or by their lawful agents."

Prior to the enactment of the “Ottinger Law," oral leases of real estate of a year's duration were permitted. 10 Where no duration was particularly specified, the term continued until the first day of May following the taking of possession under the agreement."

The effect of the “Ottinger Law” was to prohibit oral leases for longer than a month, and to make all tenancies whose duration was not otherwise specified in writing, tenancies from month to month. It was strictly construed. by the courts, which held 12 that unless a writing signed by both parties specified otherwise, such a month to month tenancy existed.

During the emergency, this law was so extensively misused, that much of the early housing trouble of 1919 and 1920 has been attributed to it.13 Unhampered by leases,

•Chapter 303 of the laws of that year.
10 Real Property Law, L. 1909, Chap. 52, 8 259.
11 Section 232 of the Real Property Law.
12 Berkowitz v. Iorizzo, 106 Misc. 489, 174 N. Y. Supp. 719.

13 The explanation of the Joint Legislative Committee on Housing which accompanied the introduction of Chap. 130, Laws of 1920, stated in reference to the Ottinger Law—“Great hardship has arisen through the operation of this law." See 43 Bench & Bar, 106.

owners sold houses to speculators who immediately raised the rents and resold upon the basis of the new schedule. The new owner was again free to raise even if the previous landlord had promised the figure he had fixed would remain the rent for a year; for no such agreement, except if it was in writing, availed to give the tenant a longer lease than for one month.14 And so the vicious practice was repeated, sometimes three, four and five times, the tenant suffering anew at each transfer. So-called "leasters" 15 and "shoestring” speculators, whose capital was chiefly their expectation to raise the rents, became potent mischief makers in the situation. 16 The enactment of Chapter 130 quickly ended all this. It re-established the operative effect of the old statute 17 permitting oral leases of a year, and added the provision that in the case of a letting of unspecified duration, the term shall be deemed to continue till the October 1st following the taking of possession, thus changing the New York "moving day," so-called, from May 1st to October 1st.

Chapter 131.18 This law applies throughout the State of New York. It provides that willful failure to furnish hot and cold water, heat, light, power, elevator, telephone and other service, if such accommodation or service are provided for

[ocr errors]

14 Berkowitz vs. Iorizzo, supra.

16 A colloquialism, believed to be a corruption of the word "lessee.” The word came into vogue during the emergency or housing shortage and was applied to a lessee for a term of years of a tenement house who took advantage of the situation to exact excessive rents from the tenants.

16 See explanation by Joint Legislative Committee on Housing, 43 Bench and Bar, 106.

17 Real Property Law, § 259.

18 Laws of 1920. This is an addition to the Penal Law, $ 2040. It was itself amended by Chapter 951, and is printed in the amended form in Appendix A of this volume.

« EelmineJätka »