For Immediate Release, June 29, 2021
Groups and Elected Officials Rallied at City Hall Today for Investment in Community Land Trusts to Combat Speculation, Expand Permanently-Affordable Housing & Community Control
[Albert Scott of East New York CLT addresses the Rally. Full video of the rally is available here. Additional Photos available upon request.]
NEW YORK, NY – Community and housing activists joined elected officials at a rally at City Hall Park today, as they called for a just budget that includes $1.51 million for the Citywide Community Land Trust (CLT) Initiative to expand community control of land and housing in NYC’s Black, brown and immigrant communities. Funding will support 14 neighborhood-based CLTs organizing across the five boroughs, as well as four citywide technical support organizations.
At the event, groups called on Mayor de Blasio and NYC Council Speaker Johnson to take bold action in NYC’s next budget–expected to be the largest in the city’s history–to advance an equitable recovery, by strengthening CLTs that shield land and housing from predatory development.
Two years ago, the City Council launched the citywide CLT discretionary funding initiative to support CLT education and organizing in neighborhoods across the City.
Since then, Council-funded groups have launched more than a dozen new CLTs in all five boroughs and stewarded hundreds of permanently-affordable housing units, including almost 80 recent acquisitions in Central and East Harlem and the Lower East Side.
CLTs work democratically to ensure that housing remains permanently affordable and that development meets community needs. Throughout the pandemic, CLTs have led tenant and community organizing efforts, conducted vacant property surveys in their neighborhoods, and led policy campaigns to expand tenant- and community-controlled housing.
The growing CLT movement has also built broad public support. A new poll found that more than 2/3 of NYC voters (and 4 out of 5 Democrats) support the city partnering with and providing grants to CLTs to build and control affordable housing.
During the rally, City Council Members and community groups, as well as representatives from the offices of Rep. Nydia Velázquez and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, urged the Speaker and Mayor to redouble their support for CLTs and to address root causes of inequality through community and cooperative ownership and control.
“As we near a vote on the City budget we are calling for full funding of the $1.5 million citywide community land trust initiative,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera. “CLTs at scale can truly preserve affordable communities better than any other tool because they put residents in control.”
“Under this model we’ll be able to bring to life a vision of a community we all want to see, a just vision of affordable housing.” said Julio Salazar, Community Liaison for Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez. “NYC just received more than $6b from the federal government. We absolutely must fully fund community land trusts. Rep. Velazquez strongly supports a $1.5 million investment in CLTs in the City Budget.”
“A renewed deal, a just recovery, for New York means investing in growth and development that serves, rather than ignores or deepens, community needs that existed long before the pandemic. Community Land Trusts are an essential component to meaningfully addressing the affordable housing and homelessness crisis in a way that centers equity and housing, economic, and climate justice. In this recovery budget, CLTs need to be expanded to help ensure affordability and community-driven decision making,” said NYC Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams.
“The New York City Council has played a key role in helping to support and expand Community Land Trusts (CLTs) throughout New York City. CLTs are a critical part of the solution to our city’s affordability crisis”; said Council Member Diana Ayala. “The work Land Trusts do is vital towards allowing for community control over land and housing. In addition, CLT’s play a crucial role in addressing speculation and displacement, while fostering to create and preserve permanently-affordable housing, retail space for small and worker-owned businesses, green infrastructure, and other community needs. Which is why I wholeheartedly support $1.51 million for the Citywide Community Land Trust (CLT) Initiative in NYC’s FY2022 budget to expand community control of land and housing in NYC’s underserved communities.”
“As New York City rebuilds its economy and continues to undergo a profound housing crisis, the Community Land Trusts initiative is more important than ever. I wholeheartedly join the call for full funding for the CLT Initiative in the FY22 budget, and applaud the work done by the New Economy Project and its partners,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.
“The City Council must take bold, meaningful steps to address New York City’s affordable housing crisis and support initiatives that empower communities to build and sustain permanently affordable units,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin. “I am proud to stand with my colleagues and the New Economy Project to support the Citywide Community Land Trust Initiative, which has helped create more than a dozen CLTs in underserved neighborhoods. Access to housing can change lives, and this much-needed initiative will help us create a more equitable and just city.”
“As the city continues to face an affordable housing crisis, I fully support cooperative ownership models like Community Land Trusts as options for championing affordability and community leadership in New York City,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “In my recently issued report on sustainable affordable housing development, I pushed the City to embrace CLTs as a viable means of not only ensuring permanent affordability but allowing communities and tenants to steward the places they live. I call on the Mayor and the City Council to fully fund the Citywide CLT Initiative at $1.51 million.”
“NYC must prioritize CLTs and community-driven solutions that create permanently affordable housing and community control. Full funding for CLTs will give community groups and residents new tools to keep people in their homes, combat speculation, and collectively ensure the long-term health and stability of their neighborhoods,” said Akilah Browne, Skadden Fellow with New Economy Project, which coordinates the NYC Community Land Trust Initiative.
“For over a year, New Yorkers were told to stay at home to stop the spread of COVID-19. But for tens of thousands of our homeless neighbors, this was impossible because our housing system prioritizes profit over people. We as a City know now that housing is a public health issue as much as it is a social justice issue. As we face an historic foreclosure and eviction crisis – at the same time NYC is set to pass its biggest budget in its history thanks to federal stimulus dollars – it is more important than ever that the City Council and Mayor commit to fully funding the CLT Initiative at $1.51 million. In doing so, we’ll not only pave the way to guarantee democratic, truly affordable housing for all, but also affordable retail, community, and green space. Fully funding the CLT Initiative is a small yet necessary investment in our City’s future.” said Ryan Hickey, Project Director of Cooper Square Community Land Trust.
“Even as the city opens up, we know that it will take us a long time to understand the ongoing, devastating impact of the pandemic. We do know, however, that the city’s housing system has failed to keep people housed and cared for, even before COVID-19 ripped through all of our communities. Instead of going back to normal, CLTs are working to build out infrastructure for community-owned land and housing that allows for livable futures defined by the well-being of all community members. More than preventing evictions and displacement, CLTs are building out collective capacity for sustaining our land and buildings, activating networks of care in times of crisis, and deepening practices for participatory community planning that meets real community needs. Ongoing and expanded funding is necessary to ensure this work improves the health and safety of our communities now, and for future generations.” said Athena Bernkopf, Project Director, East Harlem/El Barrio Community Land Trust.
“Community Land Trusts remain one the most sensible solutions to the threat of displacement and erasure facing residents, small businesses and cultural institutions in our communities. Despite the pandemic Chhaya has made great strides in laying the foundation for CLTs in Queens and as result has seen tremendous interest from community members. We call on the NYC Council to continue to support this critical work, which has become that much more important as we rebuild and recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.” said Annetta Seecharra, Executive Director, Chhaya Community Development Corporation.
“Community Land Trusts are an essential and powerful tool to address the root causes of displacement and homelessness, while stabilizing New York City neighborhoods. We Stay/ Nos Quedamos’ CLT—the South Bronx Community Resource and Land Trust—is intended to not only preserve affordable housing but also protect accessibility to community open space as an equal part of the balance in creating viable, long-term sustainable communities. Further, the model considers some broader approaches to land use management and local economic development opportunities that would uniquely position our communities around people-led ownership of locally driven utilities (solar energy) and communications networks (local mesh broadband) that will be utilized to develop effective strategies to confront issues relating to environmental resilience, including the ability to address related supplemental municipal infrastructure concerns.” said Jessica Clemente, Chief Executive Officer, We Stay/Nos Quedamos.
“Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association is starting a Community Land Trust to include more and more local residents in the decision making about what happens in the South Bronx. The City needs to invest in our people, not through systems of over policing and mass incarceration, but through community ownership and control. We ask the City to put its money where its mouth is and fund this type of work as a priority,” said Wanda Swinney, Resident Council Leader and Board Member, Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association
“Community Land Trusts are a vital tool to fight the real estate market speculation that has led to the displacement of people of color in communities like East New York, where LLCs and predatory equity companies are now the major purchasers of homes. NYC Council’s investment in the Community Land Trust Initiative has been pivotal to supporting the launch of the East New York CLT Initiative–incubated by Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation– and community organizing and outreach work. We have held many forums to increase community participation and form a Steering Committee, and established the infrastructure needed to incorporate our CLT. We urge NYC Council to renew and expand funding for CLTs so we can continue this essential work,” said Boris Santos, Treasurer of East New York Community Land Trust
“The homeownership rate in Manhattan Community District 3, which includes Chinatown, is only 10.8% and ranks 48th out of 59 community districts in New York City. The lack of home ownership can destabilize a community. It is very important the City provides this crucial funding to support CLTs that aim to enable low- to moderate-income households and households of color to build wealth through collective home ownership while keeping those community assets affordable in the long-term,” said Jacky Wong, Co-coordinator of Chinatown Community Land Trust.
“Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are a proven tool, across the U.S., for protecting poor and working class neighborhoods and communities of color from real estate speculation and displacement. New York City needs CLTs now more than ever as it recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic. City Council’s ongoing and increased support for the local CLT movement is critical,” said Hillary Caldwell, Assistant Director of Community Change Studies at City College.
“Community land trusts are a means of protecting public and private investments in affordable housing, and of putting the future of New York City in the hands of the residents who have made it valuable,” said Paula Z. Segal, Senior Staff Attorney at TakeRoot Justice. “Support for organizing and technical assistance is crucial to their success. We thank the City Council for their partnership in creating and continuing to support the CLT Initiative.”
“City Council’s support has been critical for getting CLTs off the ground the past two years. But the last year showed how vulnerable New York’s communities are. CLTs strengthen communities and put resources within their reach over the long term. We need to support long-term solutions for our affordable housing crisis and CLTs are a critical part of those solutions,” said John Krinsky, Professor of Political Science at City College.