110+ GROUPS CALL ON MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL SPEAKER TO ADDRESS AFFORDABILITY CRISIS IN WAKE OF STATE INACTION ON HOUSING
Groups urge City Council Speaker to bring broadly-supported community land trust and social housing legislation to a vote
NEW YORK, NY – A coalition of 113 community and affordable housing groups delivered a letter to New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and Mayor Eric Adams, urging them to take bold and immediate action to address the city’s affordability crisis. Citing the state’s failure to strengthen tenant protections or pass other housing justice measures in the recent budget, the letter calls on City leaders to enact the Community Land Act – a set of bills to bring land and housing into permanently-affordable community control, through community land trusts (CLTs) and other nonprofit social housing models.
The legislative package includes Int. 637, sponsored by City Council Member Lincoln Restler, prioritizing CLTs and other nonprofits in public land dispositions, and Int. 196, sponsored by City Council Member Carlina Rivera, giving qualified nonprofits a first opportunity to bid on multifamily properties when up for sale. The measures would expand property pipelines to organizations committed to maintaining deeply and permanently-affordable housing and neighborhood-led development. More than two-thirds of City Council Members have co-sponsored the two bills.
In their letter, groups urged Speaker Adams to bring the bills to a vote this session, to “reverse the tide of displacement in Black and Brown communities and ensure affordable, dignified housing for all New Yorkers.”
The Community Land Act also includes Resolution 38, sponsored by NYC Public Advocate Jumaane, calling on New York State to enact the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, giving tenants statewide a first right to collectively purchase and convert their buildings to permanently-affordable housing when a landlord sells. Groups also are backing a proposal to permanently abolish the now-defunct tax lien sale and require the City to work with CLTs to convert distressed properties to permanently-affordable housing.
The broad-based sign-on letter reflects growing support for CLTs and other social housing models, to ensure deep and permanent affordability and democratic control. Signatories include dozens of community, arts and faith-based organizations; tenant and civic associations; community development corporations and other affordable housing developers; and city- and statewide networks including the NYC Community Land Initiative, ANHD, The Supportive Housing Network of NYC, and Housing Justice for All.
At a City Council Housing and Buildings Committee hearing in February, dozens of groups rallied and testified in support of the Community Land Act. Speaker Adams and Mayor Adams have included support for CLTs in their affordable housing plans, and Speaker Adams is a co-sponsor of Int. 196.
“The City Council and Mayor must act immediately to combat speculation, the warehousing of vacant apartments, and displacement in Black and brown communities,” said Elise Goldin, CLT Organizer at New Economy Project, which coordinates the NYC Community Land Initiative. “The Community Land Act addresses root causes of housing insecurity and will expand the supply of deeply-affordable, community-controlled housing New Yorkers desperately need.”
“The Community Land Act is a leap forward toward creating real alternatives to the systems that have kept this city in a housing crisis most of our lives” said Athena Bernkopf, Project Director at East Harlem El Barrio CLT. “Doing anything less is choosing to actively maintain the status quo, where thousands of people daily are left houseless, housing insecure, and struggling to survive. We demand that our communities be given the opportunity to thrive. Putting land and housing in community stewardship can help us achieve that, and we are ready to get to work.”
“As we continue to face a housing and homelessness crisis, we must commit to building and preserving affordable housing for those who need it most,” said Will Depoo, Senior Campaign Organizer at the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development. “The package of bills in the Community Land Act provides our communities with more tools to fight speculation, develop responsibly, move distressed buildings into the hands of responsible community stewards, and ensure that public resources go where they’re most needed.”
“The Community Land Act is key to determining how the City develops and evolves,” said Arif Ullah, Executive Director of South Bronx Unite. “In essence, it’s a reflection of the City’s values. The question is, are our legislators, our Mayor, our Council Speaker equally committed to a just and equitable city that prioritizes the well-being of the vast majority of its residents, or is their allegiance to the real estate industry and private interests? Whether they support and champion the CLA is the answer.”
NYC is facing a housing crisis, and more specifically a housing affordability crisis,” said Valerio Orsello, a Board Member of This Land Is Ours Community Land Trust. “We have several projects we would like implement: two City-owned parking lots that could result in over 100 apartments for low-income apartments and to develop them we need the City to prioritize the land disposition to the This Land Is Ours CLT; we are also seeking to acquire a decommissioned church–owned lot allowing us to build over 300 apartments for low and moderate income households. The Community Land Act would prioritize disposition of City owned land to CLT’s and would give us the necessary acquisition funding.”
“It is imperative that New York City use every tool at its disposal to accelerate the construction of new units to address our twin affordable housing and homelessness crises,” said Pascale Leone, Executive Director, the Supportive Housing Network of New York. “Supportive housing is a key part of the solution, but available land for developing new units is both extremely scarce and expensive to acquire. If approved and signed into law, the Community Opportunity to Purchase Act and Public Land for Public Good would help mission-driven nonprofits purchase the property necessary to continue creating this crucial pipeline of supportive housing”
“NYC is facing a critical shortage of deeply affordable housing, and we continue to lose affordable units to ongoing rent hikes and landlord warehousing,” said Jenny Dubnau, Co-Chair of the Western Queens CLT. “Gentrification and displacement are hollowing out Black and immigrant communities, and market-rate towers are being built even on publicly owned land. We desperately need the CLA, to halt the giveaway of precious public land to for-profit developers. Mission-driven non-profits and CLTs provide far deeper affordability levels than for-profit developers, and our city leaders must take immediate action to reverse the tide of displacement. The Public Land for Public Good act would help WQCLT obtain a large city-owned manufacturing building on the gentrifying Queens waterfront, offering affordable work and cultural spaces to those who are currently priced out. And the CLA could help us obtain and fund additional sites for deeply affordable housing: we need the Community Land Act to pass!”
“St Nicks Alliance stands in strong support of the Community Land Act and Lincoln Restler’s Intro 637 aka Public Land for Public Good,” said Colin Kent-Daggett, a Tenant Organizer at St. Nicks Alliance. “For years, mission-driven and locally-accountable non-profit organizations like St Nicks Alliance have put precious resources and community energy towards securing public land that was handed out to for-profit developers. Passing the Community Land Act and Intro 637 would ensure that public lands are preserved for our neighbors’ most critical needs.”
“For too long, New York City has allowed public land to be transformed into unaffordable housing, has let multi-family buildings flip from owner to owner without a chance for resident or community access, and has overseen a process of asset stripping in low-income communities of color through the Tax Lien Sale,” said David R. Jones, C.E.O and President of the Community Service Society of New York. “The time to end these practices is now. Let’s pass the Community Land Act and put the future of New York City in the people’s hands.”
“The Community Land Act will help ensure that the maximum amount of affordable housing is created and preserved in our communities,” said Andrew Berman, Executive Director of Village Preservation. “Unlike other schemes which often depend upon destroying existing affordable housing and tying new affordable housing creation to massive amounts of luxury housing construction, the Community Land Act directly addresses what is the real housing crisis facing New York right now — the need for real affordable housing. And it does it by respecting communities and their character, and by working with local residents to create a better future.”
“Land is a precious resource and it is unacceptable that publicly owned land is sold to developers for as low as $1 in a city facing a serious housing crisis. The Community Land Act will ensure that it falls in the hands of community centered groups like CLTs, CDCs and nonprofits who have long been fighting against gentrification, foreclosures and homelessness. The time to act is now,” said Annetta Seecharran, Executive Director of Chhaya Community Development Corporation.