2/9/13

Alan Lapes: Homeless Housing Profiteer

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According to the New York Times, Alan Lapes, owner of the vacant condo building at 165 West 9th Street in Gowanus targeted by advocacy organization Coalition for Carroll Gardens, has a simple business model: buy out your low-income single-room occupancy tenants and flip their rooms to the city's Department of Homeless Services for $3,000 a month.

Homeless housing profiteers like Lapes have been drawn to the homeless shelter business by the premium room rates offered by DHS due to the shortage of housing for the homeless.

Lapes either owns or leases about 20 of the 231 homeless shelters under contract to DHS.  While most city shelters are run by DHS or not-for-profits, the Lapes operation, plagued by complaints of prostitution, violence, drug use, vermin, broken elevators, lack of heat and hot water, and fire and building code violations, is for-profit.

Lapes' business model: clearing out SRO tenants and renting their rooms to DHS at premium rates, is based on the model developed by the infamous Podolsky family, from whom Lapes rents buildings.  In the 1980s, two of the Pololskys pleaded guilty to harassing tenants out of their Upper West Side buildings, so that they could condo or rent the apartments at premium rates.

Last week, more than 200 outraged local residents and elected officials packed a community meeting on Lapes' plans to convert two of his buildings on West 95th Street in Manhattan into homeless shelters, with no public oversight.

According to the Times, landlords like Lapes were spawned by court settlements in 1979 and 2008 that required the city to either house the homeless or face big fines. Now, with the tide of homelessness in the city at a 30-year high, DHS has resorted to buying out SRO buildings, supposed to house low-income adults.

Homeless advocates blame Mayor Michael Bloomberg for creating the homeless housing crisis in New York City by failing to move families out of shelters into permanent housing and by offering a multi-million-dollar incentive to sleazy private landlords like Lapes and the Podolskys.

A related post on this blog. 

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