FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New Analysis Shows NYC Set to Squander 3,600 Potential Units of Affordable Housing, as Vacant Lots Languish in Neighborhoods of Color
Advocates Urge City to Ditch Predatory Lien Sale and Partner with Community Land Trusts to Develop Social Housing on Vacant Land
NEW YORK, NY – Ahead of the City’s tax lien sale this Friday, the Abolish the NYC Tax Lien Sale Coalition released a new analysis revealing the lien sale list includes 392 vacant lots that could support the development of over 3,600 affordable housing units. This represents a recurring missed opportunity for the City to partner with community land trusts (CLTs) to acquire these vacant lots and develop deeply-affordable housing for low-income New Yorkers, the organization said.
New Economy Project, a member of the coalition, prepared the analysis as the coalition calls on the City to end the lien sale – a decades-old policy that fuels speculation and extracts wealth from Black, brown and immigrant communities.
“By selling off property tax debt to private investors, the city is forfeiting its leverage over these vacant and underutilized properties,” said Will Spisak, Senior Program Associate at New Economy Project. “The City should instead partner with CLTs to bring these lots under community control and build deeply-affordable housing and community space in Black, brown, and immigrant neighborhoods.”
The tax lien sale scheduled for Friday, December 17, would be the first to take place since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are in the middle of a terrible housing crisis, and the city continues to say that there is not enough vacant land available to develop new affordable housing to meet the need. Yet, at the same time, the city continues to hold the tax lien sale and give away the rights to hundreds of vacant lots to private investors so that they can warehouse them or build market rate housing. This makes no sense. It’s past time to abolish the tax lien sale and bring vacant lots under community ownership so that they can be developed as deeply affordable housing” said Debra Ack, Board Member of East New York Community Land Trust, which leads the Abolish the Tax Lien Sale Coalition.
The preliminary analysis looked at vacant land that is currently zoned for residential use and has a minimum lot area of 2,500 square feet. Using this criteria, New Economy Project found the tax lien sale list includes nearly 3 million square feet of vacant residential land primed for affordable housing development. Using the lots’ existing zoning designations, the organization estimates that the vacant properties could support the creation of 3,631 units of housing.
Vacant residential properties on the lien sale list are concentrated in historically-redlined Black, brown, and working-class sections of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, according to the analysis. These neighborhoods directly overlap with the catchment areas of many of the city’s burgeoning CLTs, nonprofits organized to steward permanently-affordable housing and community-led development.
Last year, New Economy Project, TakeRoot Justice, and the NYC Community Land Initiative co-authored Commodifying Our Communities: The Case for Abolishing NYC’s Tax Lien Sale, outlining how the city could partner with CLTs to stem evictions and foreclosures and create permanently-affordable housing on tax-delinquent lots like the ones in this analysis.
The city’s tax lien sale list also includes 130 vacant lots zoned for commercial and manufacturing use. These lots represent nearly 1.7 million square feet of land that could provide affordable retail and community space and bring good paying jobs to historically redlined neighborhoods.
In addition to vacant lots analyzed by New Economy Project, the City is poised to sell off tax liens on over 7,000 other properties – including occupied small homes and multifamily buildings, commercial spaces, and manufacturing plants. Private investors that purchase the liens are permitted to tack on high fees and interest to the debt and ultimately foreclose on property owners that do not pay.
Following a groundswell of opposition to the lien sale, the city convened a task force earlier this year to explore alternatives. Legislation authorizing the city to carry out the lien sale expires in February 2022.
Nineteen City Council Members have called on the De Blasio Administration to postpone this week’s lien sale, citing the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Mayor-elect Eric Adams called for abolishing the lien sale in his campaign platform.