community land trusts

Community land trusts (CLTs) are on the rise across New York State, working to give communities control over land and housing. New Economy Project recently organized a virtual learning exchange for NYC Community Land Initiative members and two of our upstate CLT neighbors: City Roots CLT, in Rochester, and the Fruit Belt CLT, in Buffalo.

The Appeal — Across New York State, millions of tenants are at risk of eviction and property values are falling. A recent analysis found that New York City renters in neighborhoods hit hardest  by COVID-19—largely Black and Latinx communities—face nearly four times the number of eviction cases as less hard-hit areas. Local housing justice advocates fear a repeat of the 2008 housing crisis, when properties fell into distress and investors bought up 100,000 rental units across New York City, which, advocates say, led to displacement and worsened living conditions for many tenants.

New Economy Project and 17 partner organizations in the CLT Initiative seek $1.51 million in City Council discretionary funding in FY2022. We urge the Committee to support this funding request and ensure that CLTs continue to play a key role in stabilizing communities, combating speculation, and promoting a just recovery in Black, brown and immigrant neighborhoods. (See attached one-pager detailing activities and participating organizations.)

New Economy Project coordinates the Citywide Community Land Trust (CLT) Initiative, launched in FY2020 to strengthen and expand CLTs and permanently affordable housing, commercial and community spaces, across NYC. In less than two years, the Initiative has made major progress–helping to launch and expand CLTs in the South and Northwest Bronx, East Harlem and the Lower East Side, Jackson Heights, Brownsville, East New York, and beyond.

NYC needs transformative, community-led solutions to our city’s affordability crisis that advance racial equity and a just recovery. I am pleased to testify in support of Intro 1977, the Community Opportunity to Purchase Act (COPA), and Intro 118-A, to establish a municipal land bank. Passage of these bills will give communities–and the City, itself–new tools to keep New Yorkers safely housed, expand community land trusts and social housing, and curb speculation in the wake of COVID-19. We thank Council Member Rivera and Council Member Lander for their leadership and urge the Committee to advance this critical legislation.

We urge the Council not to introduce legislation reauthorizing the tax lien sale, and work with community partners, including community land trusts (CLTs), to develop an alternative and equitable system to address property tax arrears and, when appropriate, property disposition. The City’s practice of selling municipal debt to a private, investor-backed trust fuels speculation and displacement in Black and brown neighborhoods, siphoning wealth from communities disproportionately harmed by historic inequities like redlining and disinvestment, and now hardest hit by COVID-19…

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This memo, prepared with partners at the New York City Community Land Initiative, City College of New York, and TakeRoot Justice, provides a brief introduction to CLTs and proposes alternatives to the lien sale that prioritize CLTs, in partnership with mission-driven, nonprofit developers, as both resources for vulnerable homeowners and recipients of foreclosed properties.