Policymakers and advocates are working to find solutions to expand equitable homeownership opportunities in New York City, even as the affordability crisis endures, inflation increases the costs of mortgages, and housing discrimination continues to play a role in depriving people of color from opportunities to build wealth.
These were some of the main themes at the Center for NYC Neighborhoods’ ninth annual Affordable Homeownership Summit, which explored the concept of thriving neighborhoods last week. Panels included conversations with policymakers, advocates, and thought leaders.
The summit kicked off with a conversation between the Center’s CEO and Executive Director, Christie Peale, and Vanessa Perry, a professor and vice dean of strategic initiatives at the George Washington University School of Business. Perry offered up a framework for working within a housing system that she said was built “to exclusively exclude people of color.” Perry’s SAFE framework refers to “supply, affordability, fair housing, and environmental sustainability.”
Peale responded that the framework demonstrates “there is no one silver bullet” to address the systemic challenges to affordable homeownership. Peale also used the framework to demonstrate how the Center is working with its partners to achieve progress on addressing these challenges to affordable homeownership.
“When we consider our work within the SAFE framework, it’s clear that we’ve made so much progress when we work in collaboration and in coordination,” she said. “And of course there is much more to be done.”
The summit also provided an opportunity to examine how to shape thriving neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens, as well as expanding credit to communities that have historically been underserved by banks due to discrimination, and the need to protect the transfer of intergenerational wealth through homeownership for people of color.
“What we have seen now for the first time is a real transition in the homeownership market,” said former Council Member Daneek Miller of Southeast Queens in a discussion of what helps neighborhoods to thrive. “This is the first generation where it’s either property being purchased by investors, or people from outside of the community.”
Climate change was also a topic of discussion during the panel on Queens. As Robert Freudenberg, vice president for energy and environment at the Regional Planning Association, pointed out, New York City residents face “a triple threat” when it comes to flooding — coastal storm flooding, sea level rise, and extreme rainfall. Tyler Taba, senior manager for climate policy at the Waterfront Alliance, called for a “comprehensive resiliency strategy at the city and state level.” Lori Miller, Executive Director of Neighborhood Housing Services of Jamaica, mentioned efforts need to focus on preparing homeowners for flooding and informing them of their flood risk. “What we always try to sell to folks is that prevention is much better than the cure.”
Speakers on several panels spoke on how racist structures still influence the affordable homeownership landscape today, whether it’s due to the bias of current appraisal systems, gentrification, or the history of redlining and predatory practices.
“The appraisal methodology we use today for residential homes is probably pretty similar to what we used a century ago,” Charu Singh of Just Value pointed out during a panel on “Expanding Credit.” “The bias lives in its simplicity.”
Adolfo Carrión, the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, said it is the duty of government officials to tackle systemic racism. “We’ve built a society essentially around white supremacy, and we’re still building out of that,” he said. “In our government roles, the principle responsibility is to tear those barriers down.”
One of the highlights of the summit came during an interactive session when audience members were invited to help envision new solutions for affordable homeownership. Ivy Perez, senior policy and research manager at the Center, who helped lead the conversation, said, “Our number one priority should be to help as many people stay in their neighborhoods as possible, and of course homeownership is one way to stabilize families and make that happen.”