Many of New York City’s neighborhoods have experienced a long history of disinvestment, especially in Black, brown, immigrant, and low-income communities. Targeted housing legislation aims to support homeowners through the concept of ‘greenlining.’
The East New York Community Land Trust (ENYCLT) has been working with electeds on three housing bills that will counteract the effects of gentrification and ‘redlining,’ or a discriminatory loan practice to keep racial and ethnic minorities in low-income neighborhoods.
“The high-end developers, they get the land and the property and they just build for profit, not with any consideration of the community and the community’s needs,” said ENYCLT spokesperson Debra Ack. Ack considers ‘greenlining’ an avenue to give the community say-so and input on how housing is built in their backyards.
The first bill is the Community Opportunity to Purchase Act that gives CLTs and other qualified nonprofits a first right to purchase buildings when landlords sell.
Courtland Hankins, 52, tenant board member at an apartment building on 134th Street in the Bronx, recently purchased his building along with other tenants from their landlord. At the now co-op building the tenants are converting from oil to electric heat and hot water. “As we are on the path to become homeowners, one of the first things we’re prioritizing is to become more energy efficient,” said Hankins.
The second bill is the TOPA Resolution, sponsored by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, which calls on the state to pass the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act. The Purchase Act gives tenants a first right to collectively buy their buildings when landlords sell. And lastly, the Public Land for Public Good requires the city to give public land for affordable housing through not-for-profit developers and CLTs.
“If you have someone who’s a legacy family who no longer wants to live in the community for whatever reason, go to the block association first and give them the ‘right of first refusal,’” said Assemblymember Stefani Zinerman on pooling community resources. “Somebody might not be able to meet your $2 million dollar price, but it’s a nice investment for ten families on the block to buy the house. They can get residual income and they also get to control their neighbors.”
Meanwhile in upstate New York, housing initiatives like Buy The Block in Rochester build new single-family homes for low-income residents with affordable mortgages. The city-funded program aids current and new homeowners who spend only 30% of their income on housing.
Some buyers from downstate are taking advantage of the program, but the hope is that a similar program can eventually be replicated in the city.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://bit.ly/amnews1