The city on Friday officially launched a revamp of its website that provides New Yorkers with information on apartments across the Big Apple in a bid to make crucial details about their homes more accessible.
The city Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development’s (HPD) relaunched website — known as HPD Online — offers a bevy of information to tenants and building owners alike about tens of thousands of apartments in the five boroughs, according to the agency.
Tenants can use the online tool to track their HPD complaints about their unit, check if their building owner is registered with the agency — as is required, look up charges and lawsuits against their landlords, and view block and lot information. Additionally, renters can see if their building currently has any vacate orders for unsafe conditions, such as structural and facade deficiencies or a lack of fire safety measures.
The website was redesigned because its previous iteration was difficult to navigate on mobile devices and was not accessible by the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), according to HPD. By contrast, the new site is fully accessible, compatible with any assistance technology of a user’s choice and allows for text translation in the top 10 languages spoken in the city.
The site is useful not just for tenants trying to access information about their apartment, but also for prospective renters looking for a new home, according to HPD First Deputy Commissioner Ahmed Tigani. He added that it also helps nonprofits or advocates find information about buildings in their respective neighborhoods, or landlords trying to determine whether their city has accurate records of their buildings.
“We are trying to make it clearer and deeper and more transparent and just put more information in one place so that people don’t feel like they are missing the opportunity to take action, to have choice,” Tigani told amNewYork Metro. “And we think that this new website is doing that in a really effective way.”
The platform’s official rollout on Friday followed a “soft launch” in May and a six-month trial period, where HPD monitored its performance and made changes as needed, according to the agency. Since then, the site has garnered over 12 million pageviews and 2.3 million visitors.
Julie Samuels, president and executive director of Tech NYC, said it can be very difficult for New Yorkers to interface with city government and the HPD Online makes it much easier.
“One of the upgrades … is it’s got a really great mobile interface,” Samuels said. “The vast majority of people access the internet on their phone. So, that’s just one example of how government can and should, and in this case actually did, make itself more accessible to regular New Yorkers.”
The HPD website redesign comes at a time when the city is facing a significant housing crisis, where rents are skyrocketing and affordable apartments have become a rare commodity. In April 2023, the average rental price in Manhattan stood at a staggering $5,270-a-month, according to a report from Douglas Elliman at the time, while the average monthly rent in Brooklyn was $4,057.
Given that tenants already have to contend with the significant burden of high rents, said progressive Queens City Council Member Tiffany Cabán (D), they should have as much information as possible about the buildings they live in.
“Tenants are already forced to endure a relentless series of rent hikes and opposition from an extremely powerful real estate lobby — we shouldn’t be making their lives even harder by putting up barriers to accessing this sort of vital information,” Cabán said, in a statement. “With this relaunch, HPD is removing barriers.”
But the site boasts many features for landlords as well. Those include links to online applications for building owners to register their properties with HPD, the ability to file certifications, update annual reports and apply for “Certificates of No Harassment.” The site also helps building owners keep track of the vast amount of information that they are required to by city law, Tigani said.
The refreshed website is especially important to have now as the city faces significant budgetary constraints, Tigani said, with the mayor enacting 5% cuts across city agencies this week.
“You have less resources to make strategic and smart decisions about how we keep people safe, about how to help owners keep their buildings stable, about how to make sure that our neighborhoods are operating and getting resources that they need to continue to thrive,” Tigani said. ”This is the time where nothing can be wasted. So, we need more information. We need clear information, transparent information. These are the kinds of tools you need, when you’re exactly in that situation.”