A year ago, more than two dozen organizations proclaimed that New York City’s neighborhoods are the “bedrock of its success” as they set forth an ambitious agenda for protecting affordable homeownership.
The Coalition for Affordable Homes, as it named itself, aimed to leverage the collective strength of 26 organizations to influence policy in order to tackle the rising cost of housing, battle predatory lenders, speculators and investors, and to develop innovative strategies to preserve and expand affordable homeownership. In September 2015, the Coalition released a policy platform that included calling for preventing the displacement of low- and moderate-income homeowners; expanding downpayment assistance; implementing a community land trust; and supporting the Community Restoration Fund to purchase distressed notes.
In the past year, the Coalition has made strides toward achieving its policy goals.
At the end of June, the city became the first municipality in the country to purchase distressed mortgage notes directly from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through the newly established Community Restoration Program. While the program initially bought 24 mortgages, the city plans to expand it as a new model for tackling foreclosures. Lawmakers at the state level also authorized the creation of a similar fund, but no money has been allocated for it so far.
This past spring, ahead of the city’s annual tax and water lien sale, the Coalition rallied to get homeowners off the list and to reorient the city’s tax enforcement toward affordable housing preservation. One big win was the support of Public Advocate Letitia James, who held a news conference to denounce the water lien sale as too burdensome on working homeowners.
“Every homeowner has a responsibility to pay their bills, but the punishment for late payment should not be selling the debt to private investors, who then charge high fees and force our working families into foreclosure,” James said in a statement at the time. “Rather than imposing additional fines and liens, we must focus on programs that educate homeowners about their responsibilities and their rights, including payment plans”
The Coalition also advocated for fair housing practices across race and class lines. For instance, in May, it organized a homeowner event in southeast Queens called “I Deserve A Fair Mortgage, Too!” that brought together residents and housing advocates to discuss the legacy of redlining, as well as current predatory lending practices.
The Coalition also worked on multiple fronts researching downpayment assistance, deed theft scams and anti-displacement initiatives, such as cease and desist legislation.
But, by far, the biggest accomplishment of the Coalition has been to raise the profile of affordable homeownership in a city that too often overlooks its role in helping communities thrive.
To learn more about the Coalition and its policy platform, go to CoalitionforAffordableHomes.org.
In the above image, a homeowner speaks at a news conference where Public Advocate Letitia James called for changes to to how water lien sales are handled by the city. Credit: Center for NYC Neighborhoods.