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NYC Comptroller, Public Advocate, Council Members, Advocates Rally for New Vision for Housing

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Photo by: Alexia Nizhny

Ahead of City Council oversight hearing, legislation sponsors, NYC Community Land Initiative, Housing Justice For All, and non-profit affordable housing developers made the case for transformative social housing bills

New York, NY – New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, Housing & Buildings Chair Pierina Sanchez, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Council legislative sponsors, and Progressive Caucus members rallied with the New York City Community Land Initiative, Housing Justice for All, non-profit affordable housing developers, tenant leaders, and advocates from across the city prior to a NYC Council hearing to support of a transformative package of social housing bills that provide the framework for a new vision for housing in New York City.

“New market rate development alone will not solve the affordability crisis. With New York City’s median asking rents nearing $3,500 a month, new supply will do little to help homeless families move into affordable homes. Developing a robust social housing sector in New York City, in part through the passage of the bills being heard today, is integral to the future of our city. Social housing centers permanent affordability, community control, and social equity,” said Comptroller Brad Lander.

“In the face of a housing crisis, where 53% of New Yorkers are rent burdened, where eviction rates continue to soar, and where the most vulnerable New Yorkers remain at risk of losing their homes, the call for a new way to produce and govern housing is critical to turning the tide on this crisis. Approaches from our Governor and Mayor prioritize reducing red tape and enabling market rate production to stem the housing crisis but this is not enough. We need a ‘yes and’ approach. Yes to increasing production and making it easier to build, the “and,” however, is missing, and this is where social housing comes in. Today we will hear a number of bills that aim to expand current housing policy in a manner that builds intergenerational wealth for Black and Brown families, includes solutions for our most vulnerable, expands equity within housing and ultimately, prioritizes communities over profit. I am proud to be in coalition with every day New Yorkers, advocates and elected officials to shepherd this highly-anticipated and innovative shift in how we address our housing crisis,” said Council Member Pierina Sanchez, Chair of Housing and Buildings Committee.

“Now is the time to be talking about social housing. As landlords and corporations continue to place profits over people and even their own properties, it is time to move to create alternatives to this private, corporate ownership model. Housing owned by communities of tenants, rather than corporations, is the path forward. While investing to reverse decades of decline in New York’s public housing, the state and city should also be making efforts to acquire, preserve, and develop properties that can be owned and managed through community land trusts, occupied by tenants across the income spectrum. I’m glad that the Council is convening today’s dialogue and look forward to continuing the exploration of how to make these systems a reality in New York,” said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

“The New York City Community Land Initiative (NYCCLI) urges the City Council to swiftly pass the Community Land Act to create and expand permanently affordable housing and community control of land,” said Elise Goldin of New Economy Project, which coordinates NYCCLI. “This groundbreaking package of bills will give community groups and residents in Black, brown, and immigrant neighborhoods new tools to keep people in their homes, combat speculation, and collectively ensure the long-term stability of their neighborhoods.”

The seven bills and resolutions heard by the Council’s Housing and Buildings Committee on Thursday would pave the way for the expansion of social housing in New York City. Int. 0714 sponsored by Council Member Gale Brewer (and previously introduced by Comptroller Lander) would establish a New York City Land Bank, which could acquire under-utilized land and property, rehabilitate and transfer it to Community Land Trusts (CLTs) and non-profit organizations. The Public Disposition bill (Int. 0637 sponsored by Council Member Lincoln Restler and, in previous sessions, by Comptroller Lander) ensures that public land is prioritized for non-profit developers and CLTs, and the Community Opportunity to Purchase Act (Int. 0196 sponsored by Council Member Carlina Rivera) gives qualified entities a first opportunity to purchase certain residential buildings when offered for sale. The hearing will also include a social housing development agency feasibility report by Council Member Sandy Nurse (Int. 0932).

“There is tremendous potential in a New York City land bank. New York State has 26 land banks already and there and more than 250 nationwide. We are late and should utilize this nimble approach to create permanently affordable rental and social housing as well as other development projects that benefit New Yorkers,” said Council Member Gale Brewer.

“Social housing is a proven concept that enshrines affordability, democracy, equity, and stability in our housing stock. As our city faces multiple housing crises and an exodus of Black households, we must swiftly and aggressively bring to scale social housing models that combat economic and racial injustice. This is why I am proud to support and sponsor today’s social housing bills. Together, they would implement historic tenant protections as well as help strengthen and build upon our city’s successful legacy of democratic, non-speculative housing,” said Council Member Sandy Nurse.

“We have an affordability crisis in our City,” said Council Member Lincoln Restler. “Far too many city-owned lots have been misused to develop housing that is unaffordable to local residents. As rents continue to rise and more and more New Yorkers are struggling to get by, we need to act now on a new vision for housing in our City that maximizes truly affordable housing on every public lot.”

“We are fighting an unprecedented affordable housing crisis and need every possible tool available to us. Today’s hearing on social housing policies presents a new vision for housing and makes clear that we must address the ongoing crisis in a community- and person-centered way,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera (D-02). “My bill, the Community Opportunity to Purchase Act, known as COPA, would give non-profit affordable housing and community developers, Community Land Trusts, and other qualified organizations the first option to purchase certain residential buildings listed for sale in New York City. The hyper-competitive real estate market has worsened housing insecurity and COPA would improve public health and quality of life by enabling more affordable, supportive, and community-controlled housing that can serve the needs of all New Yorkers.”

The coalition also supports the resolutions to pass state legislation to strengthen social housing in New York City. This includes the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) to provide tenants with the opportunity to purchase their own buildings at sale, as well as the Housing Access Voucher Program (HAVP) and Good Cause Eviction, which would provide immediate protections and stability to tenants at risk of eviction, either due to an unconscionable rent hike or a loss of income. These measures also create additional opportunities for the expansion of social housing through tenant organizing and additional funding for operational subsidies.

The advocates at the rally reflect the diversity of the housing movement – representatives from Community Land Trusts, not-for-profit housing developers, shared equity co-ops, public housing, and advocates fighting for stronger tenant protections. The group is calling on the City to fight for a social housing model that centers permanent affordability, prioritizes community ownership and democratic control, and permanently insulates units from the speculative real estate marketplace.

Following today’s hearing, the group will continue to collaborate across a broad coalition into the budget and legislative session with a vision to fund and expand New York City’s social housing supply.

Video of the livestream is available on the Comptroller’s YouTube.
Official photos are available on Flickr.

“Social housing is a cheaper, faster, and more effective way of supplying housing for working families than any strategy that leans on private developers. As New Yorkers face a spiraling housing crisis – prompted in part by years of relying on the market to supply affordable housing that never materialized – we need to turn the page and build a real vision for social housing across New York. We stand in solidarity with electeds who are taking a first step toward that vision today by calling for the passage of Good Cause eviction protections this year, and we look forward to a future where all New Yorkers have access to safe, permanent and affordable housing,” said Cea Weaver, Campaign Coordinator for Housing Justice for All.

“Chhaya CDC has been organizing South Asian and Indo Caribbean tenants for over two decades and we are excited to finally see legislation that will pave a new path for the housing movement in NYC. This is a feat that has been a challenge in a city overloaded with predatory speculation and everyday New Yorkers deserve access to deeply affordable housing. We hope and trust that the city council will support and pass the Community Land Act as an important step towards resolving the current housing crisis,” said Farzana Linda, Chhaya CDC, Associate Director of Advocacy & Organizing.  

“New York City needs every tool available to promote social housing, public and community stewardship, and tenants’ rights,” said David R. Jones, President and CEO of the Community Service Society of New York. “The Community Land Act and all of the bills being heard by the City Council today deserve the full and enthusiastic support of all New York elected officials. Social housing is the way out of our city’s perpetual housing crisis.”

“ANHD’s members have a long history of developing deeply, permanently affordable housing. We are glad to see the council move legislation forward that supports and enables responsible community stewardship of land. These bills will help to expand the development and preservation of the kind of affordable housing New York City really needs,” said Will Depoo, Senior Campaign Organizer at the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD).

“The transformative proposed legislation including Public Land for Public Good (Int 637), COPA (Int 196), and TOPA (Reso 38) would provide non-profit organizations like Brooklyn Level Up (BKLVLUP) more tools in our toolbox for fighting displacement and building more affordable spaces for our neighbors to thrive. BKLVLUP stands alongside our powerful, civically engaged neighbors who have uplifted our communities despite decades of public and private divestment and threats posed by unregulated speculative development. The legislation heard on Thursday will help combat the negative impacts of speculative development in Black communities by nourishing more equitable development. Community Land Trusts like BKLVLUP are ready and able to receive properties and stabilize them while keeping families in their homes and businesses for the long term,” said Rachel Goodfriend of Brooklyn Level Up.

“This package of bills will ensure that our public land resources will be used for public good. The housing crisis has been particularly acute in East New York and we can’t wait much longer. These bills will be instrumental in allowing us to acquire city owned sites in East New York that we’ve identified could be developed for a community center and low-income rentals and homeownership but are now sitting trash filled and vacant. We have community input and community will, we need city support,” said Brianna Soleyn, East New York Community Land Trust.

“New York City has made a lot of declarations about racial justice and equity recently, but people are rightly asking for proof of actions that support it. The Community Land Act is that proof- it collects four crucial bills into one package, four bills that will allow mission-driven community organizations to do the crucial work we need to do in order to help New Yorkers. This is both an opportunity and a demand by the people for the City to do the right thing,” said Memo Salazar, co-chair, Western Queens Community Land Trust. 

“New York City is facing multiple simultaneous crises; homelessness, housing shortage, jobs, climate refugees, and inflation. New York City needs innovative solutions like the legislative package heard today by the New York City Council Housing & Buildings Committee. These are the bills that will create safe, equitable, and cross-generational wealth for communities of Color so it can continue to be the City where dreams are made,” said Mrs. Alexis Foote, The ReAL Edgemere Community Land Trust.