Neighborhoods throughout the city that suffered from decades of disinvestment are experiencing an explosion of real estate speculation known as “home flipping.” Now homeowners and their advocates are mobilizing against what they say is a main driver of displacement and gentrification.

About two dozen homeowners and advocates were joined by elected officials at a rally Tuesday in front of the Kings’ County Courthouse in Brooklyn where they called for state lawmakers to pass legislation to protect homeowners against harassment and real estate speculation. They also unveiled a “Homeowner Bill of Rights,” a set of principles essential to preserving homeownership for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers.

“We cannot afford for one more neighbor to be out of their home,” said Yoselin Genao-Estrella of NHS of Queens.

Pending state legislation would curb real estate speculation of homes that would otherwise be sold to low- and moderate-income New Yorkers by imposing an additional tax on properties bought and resold within one or two years. Assemblyman Erik Martin Dilan, one of the main supporters of the legislation, said at the rally that he would fight for the legislation to be passed in the next session.

“We want real people to own homes, not investors,” said Christie Peale, CEO/Executive Director of the Center for NYC Neighborhoods.

People of color are particularly at risk of losing out on the benefits of affordable homeownership. Discriminatory obstacles like redlining and a lack of access to safe mortgage financing prevent communities of color from benefiting from homeownership to the extent that white households do.

Al Scott, an organizer with the Coalition for Community Advancement, which helped organize the rally, said there was a direct link between discriminatory housing policies of the past and today’s property grabs by speculators. But he said the community was ready to fight for homeownership.

“We will no longer feel victimized in our communities,” he said.

Black and Hispanic households make up 45% of households in the city, but just 30% of the city’s homeowners. The difference in homeownership rates is a critical driver of the racial wealth gap and an immense obstacle to a more equitable NYC: 45% of families of color have zero or negative net worth compared to only 23% of white families.

Here are the main points of the “Homeowner Bill of Rights,” which seek to expand protections for small property owners in New York City:

1. No Harassment: Homeowners should be able to live free of harassment and scams that damage their quality of life and fuel speculative investment.

2. Affordable Homeownership Opportunities: Low- and moderate-income Black and Latino New Yorkers should have access to affordable, long-term and stable homeownership.

3. Fair Credit and Financing: All families deserve access to fair credit and trustworthy financial institutions. Homeowners of color in particular should have access to safe and affordable refinance and home repair financing.

4. Fair Access to Justice: Homeowners should have access to affordable legal representation and fair and transparent courts.

5. Support for Seniors: Seniors and homeowners with disabilities should be able to thrive and age in community.

6. Just Tax Policies: Working homeowners and renters should be subject to fair tax policies that discourage displacement and support stable housing.

Photo credit: Phellix Rodriguez