The NYS Community Equity Agenda calls for policies and actions that transform, rather than perpetuate, our fundamentally unjust social, political and economic systems. It puts racial and economic justice front and center and addresses long-standing inequities that play out at the neighborhood and regional levels. It requires decision-making led by people and communities typically left out of, and harmed by, status quo economic development. And it demands we do much more to tackle our most existential crises – from climate devastation to persistent wealth inequality. In the face of federal attacks on low-income people, immigrants, women, and people of color, the need for bold, local action has never been greater.
The Agenda is driven by a broad-based coalition of community, labor, civil rights, and legal services groups, cooperative organizations, and community development financial institutions. See below for a list of coalition members and endorsers. It sets forth an affirmative, solutions-oriented platform, focusing on legislative and regulatory changes that New York can and should take right now to:
- Build community wealth. To jumpstart economic growth in New York’s low-income communities and communities of color, New York should advance policies that support cooperatively-structured and community-led development. We must strengthen community-based financial institutions, including mission-driven financial co-ops that serve historically-redlined communities. Understanding that predatory lending and financial exploitation thrive when people struggle from paycheck to paycheck, the state must ensure a living wage and a collective voice on the job for all New Yorkers. To address the housing crisis, which exacerbates income and wealth inequality throughout the state, New York should foster the growth of community land trusts (CLTs) and other non-speculative models that ensure long-term and deep affordability.
- Divest and invest. Public money should be used for the public good, not for private gain. New York should publicly identify banks’ performance in meeting financial services and community reinvestment needs statewide, and divest public deposits from banks that are not meeting those needs, or that are actively harming New Yorkers and destabilizing neighborhoods. To maximize public investment in economic development, New York should facilitate the establishment of public banking, at state and municipal levels. Through public banking, New York can support critical community needs and divest from banks that are financing destructive activities, such as fossil fuels, private prisons and immigrant detention centers, and real estate speculation. Instead of massive subsidies and tax breaks for large corporations, New York should support grassroots and nonprofit initiatives that advance equitable development – including worker, food, and financial co-ops, CLTs, community-controlled renewable energy initiatives, and much more.
- End predatory lending. New York State has long banned payday lending through its strong usury laws, which make it a felony to charge more than 25 percent interest on a loan. For years, however, the payday lending industry and other financial predators have sought to break into New York’s lucrative market, using a battering-ram approach to try to blast open the state’s usury laws. Instead of opening the floodgates to high-cost, predatory loans, we should stand firmly behind our strong usury laws and strengthen other consumer protection laws, as needed. An immediate first step is to bring New York in line with forty-five other states by adding a broad prohibition of unfair and unlawful business practices. We must end all financial abuse, including by eliminating the exploitative, for-profit commercial bail bond industry in New York.
2019 Budget and Legislative Priorities:
- Fund the NYS Community Development Financial Institutions Fund and build community wealth. The Governor and NYS Legislature should deliver on funding for the NYS Community Development Financial Institutions Fund in the FY 2020 budget, and enact policies to dramatically expand the reach of community development credit unions (CDCUs).
- Establish a New York worker-ownership center and support economic democracy. To help create jobs with dignity statewide, New York should establish a worker-ownership center. The center should provide technical assistance and other needed support to worker co-ops and businesses converting to worker ownership.
- Keep payday lending out of New York and prevent further siphoning of wealth from New Yorkers and communities of color. The Governor and NYS legislators must reject any attempt – whether from check cashers, online “fintech” lenders, or other financial services entities – to weaken, undermine, or exempt companies from our vital anti-predatory lending laws.
Click here to see highlights from the 2018 NYS legislative session.
Endorse the NYS
Members and Endorsers*
Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association
CAMBA Legal Services
Center for NYC Neighborhoods
Genesee Co-op Federal Credit Union
Latino Justice PRLDEF
The Legal Aid Society
Legal Services Staff Association, LSSA 2320, UAW/NOLSW 2320
Long Island Housing Services
Long Island Progressive Coalition
Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union
Mobilization for Justice
New Economy Project
NYC Network of Worker Cooperatives
New York Working Families
New Yorkers for Responsible Lending
The Black Institute
Western New York Law Center
*list in formation