“Reconceptualize Housing as Something Beyond a Source of Profit,” Picture the Homeless and CAAAV Say, Reported by City Limits

Posted on March 12, 2018

Amid Housing Crisis, NY Must Rethink How Land is Owned

Originally Published in City Limits on March 9, 2018
Written by Abigail Savitch-Lew

A new report released Thursday takes a wide look at the nation’s housing system and calls for a shift to alternative models that “reconceptualiz[e] housing as something beyond a source of profit.” Its release comes as a variety of New York City groups, including Right to the City Alliance members Picture the Homeless and CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, have embarked on efforts to grow community land trusts. The de Blasio administration has lent financial support to the land-trust model, but some advocates would like to see the administration go farther by facilitating a major transfer of resources and land to community land trusts.

“Here we are fighting landlord after landlord after landlord … and so what are we doing to think more forward, and solutions-oriented, to resolve the crisis that we’re experiencing with our tenants?” said Cathy Dang, executive director at CAAAV, at a press conference at the Picture the Homeless headquarters in Harlem on Thursday. The report, she said, “lists real solutions for how we move forward.”

Arvernetta Henry of Picture the Homeless heralded examples of community land trusts that she’d visited on the Lower East Side and in Boston and argued that housing would be better managed when owned by residents: “Because it’s theirs, they’re going to make sure it’s well kept,” she said.

The report argues that with almost half of all renters nationwide considered rent-burdened and Black people still 75 percent more likely than White people to live near environmental hazards, among other problems, the current system in which property owners seek to maximize their investments “has been a failure, and tinkering at its margins has not and will not succeed in providing secure, decent and affordable housing for all.”

As for public housing, the report says existing units should be fully funded, but it also faults some public housing authorities for excluding undocumented immigrants and formerly incarcerated people. At the press conference, Mo George of Picture the Homeless said she thought NYCHA would be better managed if it were jointly owned by a community land trust, giving residents more control.

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