FOR IMMEDIATE RELASE: June 22, 2023
Contact: Will Spisak, 347-804-8906, firstname.lastname@example.org
Community Groups, Tenants, and Electeds Rally at City Hall for Legislation, Funding to Expand Community Land Trusts
NEW YORK, NY – In the wake of Albany’s failure to address the affordable housing crisis, more than 50 community, housing, and environmental justice groups and elected officials gathered at City Hall Park to call on the City to enact the Community Land Act, a slate of bills to expand community control of land and permanently-affordable housing in low-income Black and brown neighborhoods. The coalition also urged the City Council to fund the Community Land Trust (CLT) Initiative at $3 million in the FY24 budget, to support 20 groups organizing CLTs across the five boroughs.
During the rally, speakers representing the NYC Community Land Initiative (NYCCLI) coalition called on the City Council to pass, and Mayor Eric Adams to sign, legislation to help CLTs acquire land for deeply-affordable housing, community and commercial space. By bringing land into community ownership, CLTs facilitate neighborhood-led development and combat real estate speculation and displacement.
The legislative package, known as the Community Land Act, 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.
“The Community Land Act addresses root causes of housing insecurity by tackling speculation and prioritizing CLTs and nonprofits in housing sales. Coupled with funding, the bills will expand the supply of deeply-affordable, community-controlled housing New Yorkers desperately need,” said Elise Goldin, CLT Campaign Organizer at New Economy Project, which coordinates the NYC Community Land Initiative.
The Community Land Act also includes Resolution 38, sponsored by NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, 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 coalition also called for enhanced funding of $3 million in New York City’s FY2024 budget for the Citywide CLT Initiative. Launched four years ago, the initiative funds CLT organizing and technical assistance and has helped catalyze new CLTs across the five boroughs, from the South and Northwest Bronx to East Harlem, Western Queens, Brownsville, and East New York. Renewed funding will support 16 neighborhood-based CLTs, including new land trusts in Edgemere, Queens, and East Flatbush, Brooklyn, and four citywide organizations providing training, legal and technical support.
At the rally, CLT activists spoke about their work organizing tenants, small businesses, and homeowners at risk of eviction and foreclosure; developing and preserving deeply-affordable housing; and converting vacant and underused property to community, health and arts facilities, retail storefronts, and other uses.
“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, Mott Haven Port Morris Community Land Stewards. “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 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!”
“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.
“For many tenants who are victims in poorly managed buildings and who are also being priced out of their neighborhoods, T/COPA is that ‘Safe Haven’ that will protect and enhance their sense of: COMMUNITY, give them the option of Ownership, help to instill PRIDE in Self and their surroundings while making it all AFFORDABLE. Our tenant association calls on the City Council to Pass Intro 196 and Res 38!” said Gary Simon, tenant leader at 120 E 19th Street in Brooklyn.
“Chinatown has one of the lowest rates of home ownership in all of New York City, and no new affordable units have been built in the last 30 years. This systemic neglect has long-term social and economic ramifications for our neighborhood, with extreme fire hazards being just one of them. These problems are driving our neighborhood’s rapid decline, and it is time for a change. The CLT funding would enable the community to explore practical and sustainable solutions. It’s high time for our voices to be heard, and for the city to take action to uplift and improve our community for generations to come,” said Jacky Wong, Coordinator of the Chinatown Community Land Trust.
“The importance of passing COPA cannot be overstated. It gives tenants an opportunity to buy the buildings they live in which have been mismanaged by their slumlords. At a time when homelessness is so prevalent in the city, COPA can create a sense of security and peace of mind for tenants,” said Gilbert Butcher of Met Council on Housing.