Creating and Supporting Community Land Trusts

Land ownership is the most straightforward way for people to control the land they live on. Community land trusts (CLTs) are non-profit organizations that treat land as a public good.

Stability of place allows people living or working in a neighborhood to build community and resilience. A CLT  allows the community to keep the wealth it creates by maintain affordability and ensuring that new uses and users are community-focused. CLTs lease the land they own to non-profit building owners, homeowners and community institutions; the terms in those long-term leases define the present and future of the CLT’s land. They typically include rent and resale formulas.

TakeRoot’s Equitable Neighborhoods team provides legal and technical support to CLTs and grassroots organizations developing new CLTs in order to preserve long-term affordability and economic investment in their communities. Our clients include the East Harlem/El Barrio Community Land Trust and the Bronx Community Land Trust (incubated by the Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition).

TakeRoot also advocates for policies that will support CLTs focused on creating and preserving deeply affordable housing citywide as a member of the New York City Community Land Initiative (NYCCLI).

Read NYCCLI’s 2020 policy priorities here: For a Just Recovery, Give Communities Control of Land.

Current Policy Campaign: #AbolishNYCTaxLeinSale

In January 2021, in response to advocacy the Abolish the NYC Tax Lien Sale Coalition, the NYC City Council passed legislation charting the course for ending New York City’s tax lien sale (Local Law 24 of 2021). The bill permits the fewest liens to be sold on small homes in the history of the lien sale. Read details here.

According to NYC Department of Finance, 14,398 fewer property owners will be eligible for the 2021 lien sale as a direct result of the 2021 reform. That is 14,398 property owners that will not be exposed to the threat of foreclosure this year. 

Local Law 24 also required the Mayor and Speaker of the City Council to appoint a Task Force to study and publicly present a replacement system of debt collection for NYC. The task force, to include community and advocacy groups, must study the potential “transfer of properties with delinquent property taxes, sewer and water rents subject to a lien to community land trusts, land banks, mutual housing associations or other similar entities.” Debra Ack, board member of the East New York Community Land Trust and co-founding member of the Abolish the NYC Tax Lien Sale Coalition has been appointed by the Speaker.

Read a report in support of the campaign here: Commodifying our Communities: The case for abolishing NYC’s tax lien sale and prioritizing community land trusts in a new tax collection and property disposition system (December 2020).

Testimony

Testimony to the NYC Council Committee on Finance on Tax Lien Sale Reauthorization (December 9, 2020): TakeRoot called on the City Council to abolish the lien sale and expand the pipeline of properties headed for transformation to social housing and community ownership.

Testimony to the NYC City Council Oversight Hearing: Examining the City’s Deed Theft and Deed Fraud Crisis (October 13, 2020): TakeRoot testified to connect the dots between the deed fraud crisis and the NYC Tax Lien Sale, as part of the #AbolishNYCTaxLeinSale campaign, led by the East New York CLT Initiative.

Testimony before the New York City Council Committee on Land Use Preliminary Budget Hearing for FY 2020 (March 7, 2019): TakeRoot, in partnership with the New Economy Project and the Cooper Square CLT in the Lower East Side, testified to ask the City Council to include funding in the FY 2020 budget for a Community Land Trust (CLT) Initiative, of which TakeRoot is a member. You can watch the hearing here; TakeRoot’s testimony begins at 3:26:17. TakeRoot and our partners were successful in securing $870,000 of discretionary funding in the 2020 City budget for the development and expansion of CLTs.

Testimony on Intro 1269, A Bill in Relation to the Creation of Regulatory Agreements with Community Land Trusts (October 19, 2017): TakeRoot spoke in support of this bill as a foundation on which to build a regulatory framework around CLTs. TakeRoot also endorsed suggestions by the New York Community Land Initiative for improving the bill to ensure that CLTs are truly a vehicle for creating and preserving housing for low income families.

Selected Press

Kings County Politics: Tax Lien Sale Bill Asks for Reform Taskforce | Feb. 3, 2021

Politico: Council rankles de Blasio administration after pulling tax lien bill | Dec. 21, 2020

The City: Council Considers Killing the Tax-Collection Machine Rudy Giuliani Built | Oct. 22, 2020

Bklyner: Activists And Lawmakers Call To Abolish City’s Tax Lien Sale | Oct. 14, 2020

Curbed: Community land trusts score crucial funds in city budget | June 18, 2019

Next City: Momentum for NYC Community Land Trusts Gets $1.65M Boost | July 26, 2017

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Photo: The best-known CLT in New York City is Cooper Square, which holds land on which 22 buildings are located. The buildings themselves are owned by MHAs, which manage the buildings for residential and commercial tenants, and have converted many of the apartments to co-op ownership. This structure has kept rents and co-op fees affordable in the midst of rapid gentrification elsewhere in the Lower East Side.