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Study of Government-Subsidized Housing Rehabilitation Programs and Arson - Analysis of Programs Administered in New York City, 1978-1981 - Executive Summary

NCJ Number
A Pisani
Date Published
20 pages
The New York City Arson Strike Force studied the relationship between government-assisted housing rehabilitation and arson. Four housing rehabilitation programs were examined: Section 8 Substantial Rehabilitation Rent Subsidy Program, Participation Loan Program (PLP), J51 Tax Exemption and Abatement Program, and Article 8A Rehabilitation Loan Program.
Each program was reviewed for enabling legislation; rules and regulations governing the selection of properties, disbursement of funds, and scope of work allowed; applicant processing; tax implications; programmatic antiarson procedures; and other factors. In most cases, the program director was interviewed, and procedures were discussed with staff. Possible methods by which these programs could be manipulated for profit using arson were analyzed. To see if a relationship existed between government rehabilitation and arson, a comparative analysis was conducted whereby program and control samples were compiled for each program. Independent variables were the four rehabilitation programs, while the dependent variable, 'suspicious fires,' was culled from the New York City Fire Department's Structural Fires File. Bivariate and regression analyses were conducted on the data. Findings revealed that Section 8 program buildings had fewer fires than control buildings. Buildings that were privately owned prior to the submission of a Section 8 application had more fires than other Section 8 and control buildings after neighborhood, building size, tax arrears, occupancy rate, and program status were held constant. These findings suggest that some building owners, sensing the opportunity to profit from Section 8 assistance, may have promoted fires through neglect or intent to force tenants to vacate. Only two classes of Participation Loan buildings experienced a greater than expected incidence of suspicious fires: PLP buildings in Flatbush and those owned by three specific developers. Residential buildings that received J51 benefits between July 1, 1980, and June 30, 1981, for rehabilitation with certified rehabilitation costs over $100,000 experienced a greater incidence of suspicious fires than control buildings from Jan. 1, 1978, to Dec. 31, 1978, the period immediately before rehabilitation. However, the statistical significance of this finding could not be determined because the sample only included 97 buildings. No significant relationship was found between the receipt of an Article 8A loan, which provides loans for moderate rehabilitation with tenants in place only, and suspicious fire. Recommendations are given for the first three rehabilitation programs. For the full report, see NCJ 92372. Thirteen footnotes are included.