For profit developers have a history of getting first crack at purchasing and developing NYC owned land.
According to Council member Lincoln Restler, “Public land is a treasure that we need to maximize for truly affordable housing”.
Restler's proposed bill would prevent the city from selling off land to private, for profit developers, unless no qualified non profit group makes an offer. Restler wants things to change here, so that New York City Community Land Trusts and non profit developers get the first crack at securing publicly owned land for truly affordable housing.
Restler says “Too often, the city has disposed of it's most valuable asset- it's land without securing sufficient affordable housing commitments from developers”. Restler continues “I think every progressive organization and elected official is in staunch agreement that 100% affordable housing on every publicly owned site is a prerequisite to considering development”.
The bill which was introduced by former council member Brad Lander in 2021 has 19 co sponsors so far.
The sale of The Bedford Union Armory, a city owned property in Brooklyn, NY to a private firm that achieved a rezoning approval to build 415 apartments in 2017 motivated Restler to re introduce the bill.
Apparently, there was strong resistance and opposition to a redevelopment of a city owned Armory that would primarily be for luxury housing.
Located in Restler's district in Greenpoint, the site of an MTA owned bus washing station at 40 Quay Street, was leased to Gotham developers for $39M this year. Gotham plans a 900 unit tower with only 25% of the units priced for low and middle income tenants.
An analysis done by Restler's office indicates that between 2015 and 2018 75% of all city owned sites that were redeveloped, went to for profit developers, at times for as little as $1.
This legislation, if it passes could be a tremendous boost for the city's community land trusts (CLT) movement, comprised of non profit organizations that purchase a property and retain the land while leasing apartments at permanently affordable rates. Residents can also purchase and maintain ownership of homes on CLT land but cannot resell for large profits, curbing the kind of speculation that has eroded affordable housing options in East New York and Central Brooklyn.
According to Will Spisak, senior program associate at New Economy Project, which coordinates with CLTs across the 5 boroughs “For decades the city has given precious land to for profit developers who build luxury housing and other projects that displace Black, brown and immigrant New Yorkers”.
This bill would further pose an obstacle to The Department of Housing Preservation and Development when it comes to selling property. HPD spokesperson William Fowler says “As the Housing Our Neighbors blueprint lays out, this administration is laser focused on making New York an affordable place to live, and supporting our non profit partners in the process”. “We look forward to reviewing this bill and working with our partners in the council to accomplish our shared goals”.
To be continued...
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