For the vast majority of New Yorkers, the American Dream of owning a home is simply beyond reach. But a citywide collaborative of non-profit affordable housing organizations, with support from Citi Community Development, is working to bring affordability back to New York City neighborhoods.
According to NYU's Furman Center, housing prices across the five boroughs have more than doubled since 1990, but real median household income has fallen by 11 percent over the same time period. Roughly half of the city's households earn $55,000 or less per year, yet they could afford just 9 percent of the homes sold in 2014. Even households earning up to $114,000 annually – twice the national median household income -- could only afford 42 percent of the homes on the market.
That is bad news for the many nurses and transit workers, teachers and police officers, carpenters and firefighters who want to own a home and build household wealth that can last for generations. It's bad news for up-and-coming neighborhoods, where residents unable to buy a home run the risk of displacement in the face of rising rents. And it's bad news for a city that seeks to remain a place of inclusion and opportunity for all.
In one of the most expensive cities in the world, we need more paths to affordable homeownership.
The Interboro Community Land Trust offers one viable solution.
In October 2017, the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, Habitat for Humanity New York City, the Mutual Housing Association of New York (MHANY), the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB), and Citi Community Development announced the launch of the Interboro Community Land Trust -- the first citywide community land trust designed to create permanently affordable homeownership opportunities for low-income New Yorkers.
Here's how it works: a community land trust (CLT) is a nonprofit organization which retains ownership of land, and sells the housing built on that land to lower-income households at below-market prices. The trust places a cap on the resale value of that property, which insulates the home from the market, ensures that it stays affordable for future generations of residents, and offers long-term stability to the neighborhood.
The Interboro CLT is based on a scalable partnership model that spans the public, private and nonprofit sectors. The initiative aligns with Mayor de Blasio's affordable housing plan, the pace of which he recently accelerated and expanded, announcing a suite of new programs, including several to advance affordable homeownership opportunities. The partnership will work closely with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and New York State Homes and Community Renewal to identify, finance, and steward new projects; residents and community members will be brought onto the CLT board to reflect the needs and aspirations of the surrounding neighborhoods; and Citi Community Development, which provided the initial seed funding for the program, is investing an additional $1 million to launch the Interboro CLT Growth Fund, which will accelerate development of the first 250 units and position the CLT to become one of the largest urban land trusts in the nation.
Interboro's first projects are aimed at eastern Brooklyn, the South Bronx, and southeast Queens, with the eventual goal of expanding across New York City and replicating its partnership model to CLTs in cities around the country. You can learn more at interboroclt.org.
If we wish to ensure that New York remains an inclusive city, one where neighborhoods are safeguarded from displacement and financially vulnerable households can build long-term wealth and achieve greater economic security, then opportunities for affordable homeownership must be part of the equation. By embracing new models of permanently affordable homeownership, we can help protect the vibrancy and diversity that New York City neighborhoods are known for.