Lander argued in an op-ed published in the New York Times Thursday that converting such properties for community use would help prevent a “feeding frenzy” from private developers.
“We could acquire and hold these properties temporarily through a city-controlled land bank, based on legislation I’ve introduced, and then transfer them to a growing network of community land trusts, nonprofit entities that hold land in perpetuity for publicly beneficial uses,” Lander wrote.
The politician drew a comparison with the fiscal crisis in New York City in the 1970s, noting that leaders at the time had turned public land over to developers — with tax breaks attached — which he said deepened inequality.
“Wall Street, Broadway and Soho boomed, but artists and average workers couldn’t afford to live here,” Lander wrote. “Small-business owners started new ventures but were priced out of affordable commercial space. Immigrant families worked hard but struggled mightily to pay skyrocketing rents.”
He also pointed to tax breaks offered after the 2008 recession, which led private equity and hedge funds to buy and convert hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homes into market-rate rentals, pushing down U.S. homeownership.
History, Lander argued, offers “lessons in how not to respond” to the current crisis.
Instead, he said that distressed residential projects and hotels should be converted into affordable rental or cooperative housing. On the commercial side, Brooklyn Navy Yard served as a model.
“We don’t yet know how many additional properties will fall into distress in the current crisis or how many we might be able to convert to social uses,” Lander wrote. “But we need to get started now, before the feeding frenzy starts.”
[NYT] — Sylvia Varnham O’Regan