At the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, we believe that no family should lose their home due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
This unprecedented public health and economic crisis has disrupted the daily lives of all New Yorkers, which is why it is critical that we protect the housing security of our homeowners and their tenants. Our neighbors need to be securely housed during the crisis and after the public health danger has passed and the severe economic fallout continues. We need to ensure that New York’s low- and moderate-income homeowners don’t fall victim to scams and displacement. This requires strategic, innovative interventions designed to preserve our naturally occurring affordable housing until the COVID-19 outbreak subsides and we have recovered from the aftershocks of this crisis. Finally, the disaster response must be equitable and inclusive so that all families can easily access services.
As leaders of one of the country’s largest non-profit organizations dedicated to affordable homeownership, we believe the following core principles should guide a response to the crisis:
- Homeowners should not face foreclosure during or as a result of the economic downturn associated with the COVID-19 outbreak.
- The end of forbearance periods and other postponements of payments should not require unaffordable balloon payments. Financial assistance needs to be designed to be sustainable for those who are in immediate need months and years down the line.
- Any response should address the disproportionate impact of the crisis on black and Latinx communities, which have higher rates of infection and death. For too many families of color, COVID-19 is the latest threat to stable and affordable housing. The disparity in infections has been tied to the decades of segregation, redlining, and persistent discrimination faced by black Americans. We must ensure that the responses to this crisis narrow the racial gap in household wealth and health, not widen it.
- The subprime crisis taught us that the government should not be allowed to bail out corporations and let families fail. We must invest in supporting homeowners and bring industry around to invest in communities over the long-term.
- Tenant stability is vital to both renters and landlords. We need to support both homeowners and their tenants, so that the financial instability from the crisis does not lead to displacement.
- We all need a champion when times are tough. Housing counseling and legal service advocates are best positioned — when fully funded and included in all programs — to help homeowners to understand their rights, navigate their options for recovery, and apply for help.
- This is no time to forget the immense environmental and climate change challenges we were already facing in order to solve short-term problems. A COVID-19 response must consider the impact of environmental racism on communities of color in New York City.
- People recovering from this crisis will need grants and low- or no-interest capital that keeps their housing expenses affordable and leaves them with emergency savings.
- All housing expenses associated with homeownership should be frozen for families facing income loss associated with the outbreak, without damaging their credit. This includes mortgage payments, taxes, homeowner and flood insurance, and utility bills.
- We must respect the time and the dignity of working families by lowering the barriers to entry into critical programs, cutting red tape for both homeowners and those who are trying to assist them, and by coordinating across agencies and the private sector.