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Queens nonprofit releases report on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on local homeowners

Queens COVID-19 homeowners
Photo via Getty Images

In March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic devastated New York City, the communities served by the Queens-based nonprofit Chhaya Community Development Corporation were severely impacted.

A recent report released by Chhaya, “Dream Disrupted: Assessing the Economic Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Queens Homeowners,” illustrated the threat of real estate speculation and continued financial effects of the pandemic that could potentially displace low-to-moderate income (LMI) homeowners. The report specifically examined the state of mortgages, the rise of homeowner costs and neighborhoods affected by house flipping.

This report follows Chhaya’s 2019 report, “Investor Invasion,” which looked at the reasons for declining affordability for LMI immigrant families who hope to become homeowners.

“Homeownership provides a path for financial stability and well-being, but this opportunity is slipping away as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated cost burdens for LMI homeowners and house flipping in communities of color,” said Annetta Seecharran, executive director of Chhaya CDC. “Our goal with this report is to spur dialogue between homeowners, advocates and policymakers to develop solutions that address these intersecting issues and ensure LMI families can still call Queens home.”

The report provided six recommendations to prevent the displacement of LMI homeowners and limit the speculative market.

  1. NYS should pass the COVID-19 Community Protection Act, which builds upon the Flip Tax to deter investors from buying properties to flip them for a profit and provides tax relief to LMI buyers.
  2. NYS should commit to the disbursement of loans promised to families by the Homeowners Assistance Fund, as many still have not received aid — and reopen the fund to the waitlist.
  3. New York City should permanently abolish the tax lien sale and replace it with community-based alternatives to preserve affordable housing rather than transferring properties with liens over to speculators.
  4. This includes increased funding for Community Land Trusts to ensure nonprofits can provide options for homeowners who may be at risk of foreclosure.
  5. To resist speculators, New York state could uncover shadowy LLC groups by passing the LLC Transparency Law.
  6. The state could expand Cease and Desist Zones to include southeastern Queens, where communities of color are facing increasing levels of harassment to sell their homes.

Chhaya CDC’s mission is to serve New York City’s South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities by advocating for affordable and sustainable homes, providing housing counseling, economic empowerment and financial literacy. In addition, Chhaya provides direct services and resources to residents who need them.

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