PR: Elected Officials Call On Banks To Turn Over Vacant Properties For Affordable Housing

For immediate release: Wednesday, Dec 7, 2011

Contact: Olivia Leirer (646) 479-3426 Johanna Garcia (917) 280-4459

THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK OFFICE OF COUNCILMEMBER ROBERT JACKSON
ELECTED OFFICIALS CALL BANKS TO TURN OVER VACANT PROPERTIES FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING

On the heels of a national day of action highlighting the damage caused by the big banks, members of the City Council gathered to demand that the banks turn over vacant foreclosed properties to non-profit affordable housing groups who will maintain them.

The council members are responding to a growing call from the 99% to hold the banks responsible for the damage that foreclosures cause to NYC communities and address the severe lack of affordable housing in the city; a call that was emphasized during a national day of action surrounding foreclosures that took place in more than a dozen cities yesterday.

“Pay it forward! Banks were bailed out by the government when they were in trouble. Now it’s their turn to help ease the housing crunch by bailing New Yorkers out. Affordable housing is a scarce commodity in a city where the majority of families are struggling to make ends meet after they pay their rent or mortgage”, said Councilmember Robert Jackson. “We all need to be in this together. Partnering with not-for-profit organizations to turn vacant properties that are just sitting there into affordable places to live will go a long way in addressing this crisis.”

“When there are nearly 50,000 homeless New Yorkers, and nearly 50% of New Yorkers with homes are paying more than a third of their income in rent, we know we are facing a crisis.” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “It’s time that the banks sell some of their properties which have been sitting vacant to non-profits, to create the housing that New Yorkers so desperately need. While banks might be able to sit on properties hoping they’ll one day create a profit, families facing homelessness don’t have that luxury. We need a change, and we need it today.”

The effects of the foreclosure crisis on struggling homeowners is great, but tenants in overleveraged building and community members who are coping with blighted vacant properties and stalled developments are also impacted.

“Foreclosed homes, stalled developments, and overleveraged apartment buildings all share a root cause: the refusal of banks to write down loses that everyone acknowledges they should take,” said Councilmember Brad Lander. “By making these problematic properties into assets for the community, we can convert blight into benefit.”

Yesterday all eyes were on East New York, where Occupy Wall Street activists and members of community organizations welcome the family of Tasha Glasgow into a vacant home in the community. Tasha Glasgow, a member of VOCAL-NY and the mother of the family welcomed into East New York during yesterday’s action joined the Council Members to speak out about her family’s struggle to find housing.

Tasha said, “There are homeless families across this city like mine who feel like they should just give up because they’ve run out of options. I’m angry that the shelters are filling up with families while big banks sit on vacant homes.”

Alfredo Carrasquillo, a community organizer at VOCAL-NY, added, “It’s criminal that Wall Street got bailed out and then turned around and foreclosed on millions of homes and refused to pay their fair share in taxes that could fund essential services like housing assistance.”

East New York has a foreclosure rate five times the citywide rate but the problem is hardly isolated to one community.

Council Member James Sanders said, “The foreclosure crisis is not limited to one borough, one demographic, or even one income level. Anyone can be taken in by these scams, and anyone can find themselves the victim of foreclosure. Today I’m proud to stand with vocal and NY Communities for change, and I strongly encourage the banks to get right!

Amelia Adams Political and Legislative Director with New York Communities for Change said, “Watching hundreds of people come together yesterday to support a homeless family’s right to shelter and stand up for struggling home owners was inspiring. I am glad that the Council Members here today are heading the 99 percent’s call for justice.”

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Economy & Democracy, Press Release

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