At City Hall Rally, Coalition Releases New Analysis Showing Nonprofit Developers Create Far More Deeply Affordable Housing Than For-Profits
Groups Urge City Council to Pass Broadly-Supported Community Land Trust and Social Housing Legislation, to Address NYC’s Affordability Crisis
NEW YORK, NY – As New Yorkers grapple with skyrocketing rents and homelessness, more than 20 community, affordable housing, and environmental justice groups joined local elected officials to rally at City Hall in support of 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 coalition urged the City Council to pass the bills this session, to address root causes of the city’s affordability crisis and combat displacement in Black and brown communities.
The Community Land Act includes Int. 637, known as the “Public Land for Public Good Act,” which would require NYC to prioritize CLTs and nonprofit developers when disposing of city-owned land. At the rally, the New York City Community Land Initiative (NYCCLI) released a new analysis of public land dispositions over the past decade, revealing that nonprofits awarded public land built homes for extremely low-income families at nearly twice the rate as their for-profit counterparts. Despite their track record reaching deeper and longer-term affordability, nonprofits have been sidelined in public land dispositions, as for-profits received the lion’s share of public land projects. (For more on the research, see bullet points and graphics below.)
The Community Land Act also includes Int. 196, known as the “Community Opportunity to Purchase Act,” giving qualified nonprofits a first opportunity to bid on multifamily buildings when up for sale; and Resolution 38, calling on New York State to pass the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, to give tenants a right of first refusal to collectively buy their buildings when a landlord sells. A new report by LISC found that similar policies have preserved tens of thousands of affordable homes in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
The Community Land Act is co-sponsored by nearly two-thirds of the City Council and supported by more than 115 organizations and coalitions, including NYCCLI, the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (ANHD), and Housing Justice for All. At the rally, groups urged City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams to bring the bills to a vote.
The City Hall rally also comes on the heels of a new poll that found strong support for nonprofit housing models among New York City voters. When asked how the city should manage public land, 72 percent of NYC voters said the city should prioritize nonprofit developers who treat housing as a public good rather than as a vehicle for profit; 60% also said the city should give nonprofits, co-ops, and community land trusts financial incentives to build more housing.
At the rally, speakers pointed to nonprofits’ long track record of providing deeper and longer-term housing affordability than for-profits, and urged the city to give these mission-driven developers new tools to maintain deeply and permanently-affordable housing and neighborhood-led development.
NYCCLI’s analysis of public land dispositions found that, for rental projects built on public land and receiving city financial assistance between 2014 and 2023:
- Nonprofit developers built homes for extremely low-income households (0-30% AMI) at nearly twice the rate as for-profits. Approximately 38.1% of new housing units produced by nonprofits on public land served these lowest-income New Yorkers compared to just 21.6% built by for-profit developers and 9.5% built by Minority/Women Owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE) developers.
- Meanwhile, 14.2% of ‘affordable’ units constructed by for-profit developers on public land were for households earning 121-165% AMI, which is roughly $153,000 to $210,000 for a family of three. During the period analyzed, nonprofit developers set aside less than one percent of housing units at this income level, instead prioritizing housing for lower income residents not served by the private market. M/WBE developers set aside 7.7% of units for that higher income bracket.
- The city’s reliance on profit-driven developers has failed to produce housing affordable to the Black and brown communities in which public land dispositions are concentrated. The analysis found a majority of ‘affordable’ housing units preserved or constructed on public land in East New York, Brownsville, South Bronx, and East Harlem, for example, were unaffordable to the median income household of the neighborhood.
Previous studies have reached similar conclusions. A 2019 report by the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (ANHD) found that 35% of nonprofit-built housing was affordable to households in the lowest income bracket, compared to only 18% in for-profit developer buildings.
At the rally, groups argued that the city should use its public land to ensure a sizeable share of units for the lowest income New Yorkers (0-30% AMI), who represent 32.1 percent of the city’s renters and 52.2 percent of rent burdened New Yorkers—making them most at risk for displacement and homelessness.
NYCCLI’s analysis examined HPD data, public records, and other secondary sources. The research was led by Hayoung Jeong, a member of East New York CLT and a PhD student at the CUNY Grad Center. New Economy Project assisted with analyzing ACRIS records and Census figures. Several CLTs directly impacted by the city’s public land disposition practices, including Brownsville CLT, East Harlem/El Barrio CLT, and Mott Haven Port Morris Community Land Stewards, informed and helped shape the analysis.
CLTs – nonprofit, community-based organizations that own land and steward housing and other neighborhood development—ensure housing remains affordable in perpetuity and that decisions are made by and for local residents. Interest in the model is surging in NYC. More than 20 CLTs are organizing across the five boroughs – including in neighborhoods where public land dispositions are concentrated – and about one-third own land or are in active stages of acquiring their first properties.
“The City Council must take bold and immediate action to combat displacement of low-income and Black and brown New Yorkers from their neighborhoods,” said Elise Goldin, campaign organizer at New Economy Project, a co-founder and coordinator of NYCCLI. “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.”
“Private developers are using public land to produce ‘affordable units’ that are affordable only for households making six figure salaries, and census data shows that white households in NYC are nearly twice as likely as Black households to make such salaries,” said Hayoung Jeong of East New York CLT, who led the research effort for NYCCLI. “We must consider the racial implications of unaffordable housing.”
“With 20 community land trusts now operating in New York City, and the Community Land Act with near supermajority support in City Council, it is clear that investments and organizing have propelled the movement for community-led housing and neighborhood development forward. I commend the NYC Community Land Initiative for their continued dedication to the work that advances community ownership as a solution to create affordability and stem displacement of legacy residents,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera.
“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 realize a new vision for housing in our City that maximizes truly affordable housing on every public lot.”
“At any time, the city can issue a Request for Proposal for any of the vacant public sites in East New York and award the site to a for-profit developer – developers who are looking to maximize profit and speculate on our neighborhoods and our displacement. That’s unacceptable,” said Brianna Soleyn, a board member of the East New York Community Land Trust. “We need the Community Land Act now. This is the bare minimum that the city can do to support NYC CLTs enacting our missions to gain community control over land.”
“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 Orselli, a Board Member of This Land Is Ours Community Land Trust. “We have several projects we would like to implement, including two city-owned parking lots that could result in over 100 low-income apartments. We need the City to prioritize the land disposition to the This Land Is Ours CLT. We are also seeking to acquire a privately-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 CLTs and would help us secure the necessary acquisition funding.
“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!”
“A year and a half ago, my life changed because my landlord called me and said, ‘Jonathan, you have to leave. I’m selling the building to a private equity developer,’” said Jonathan Bloom, a tenant in Sunnyside, Queens and a member of the Western Queens CLT. “I didn’t think I would be able to stay in the city, but we fought back and we stopped the sale from happening. And my landlord, while I don’t agree with her decision to sell it, I can understand the position she’s in. She wants to get out, she wants to sell the building, but the only business model that exists for a small rent stabilized building in Queens is for a private equity developer that wants to gut renovate it, kick out all the tenants, and rent it for market rates. We want to give her another option. We are ready. We want to own the building cooperatively as tenants…TOPA and COPA with funding would give tenants the ability to actually control the spaces where they live.”