It’s been said about New York City that real estate is its number one cash crop. As a native New Yorker I can attest to that. Affordable Housing is on the low end of the scale as market rate housing continues more and more to be the norm.

Brad Lander as a Council Member now the Comptroller originally alerted me to Land Banks as a way of curbing the edge that exists for luxury housing stock throughout most of the five boroughs. Councilperson Gale Brewer picked up the gauntlet and has steered it into a bill, Intro 714. It’s had a hearing in the housing committee in early 2023. Essentially, it creates The New York City Land Corporation. The definition entails a charitable not-for -profit corporation establishing Land Banks. The purpose of the Land Corporation shall be to fulfill the purposes of and performs the functions of a land bank organized under article 16 of the not-for-profit corporate law; to effectively acquire, warehouse and transfer real property to expedite the development, rehabilitation and preservation of affordable housing and to encourage the property uses that best serve the community but which are not sufficiently provided for by the free market, including industrial, manufacturing and maritime activities; fresh food stores; public and open spaces, and wildlife conservation areas.

This frees up land for constructing affordable housing and also entities needed by the community at large. Two things that stand out: the title is the NYC Land Corporation and it’s a not-for-profit corporation. The title has an innovative feel to it fitting in with New York City’s zoning laws but for Georgists it alludes to the notion of land and its importance. The Not-For-Profit Corporation aspect seals the requirement that profit doesn’t come into play here.

While much of the bill describes the bureaucratic nature of a corporation , it doesn’t take away from the fact that this makes for a new chapter in housing politics in New York City. The enforcement part of government offers control to otherwise vulnerable populations that make up the majority of tenant residents. The Land Bank concept promotes the warehousing of land parcels abandoned by land owners and landlords for many years delinquent in their taxes allowing the city to appropriate these lots.

Hopefully, the land bank corporation includes the structure of a community land trust. This eliminates the bank mortgage requirement for housing. As affordable housing proceeds not only in New York City but country-wide community land trusts lead the way to ending discrimination in housing and allowing the homeless entry into more housing opportunities.

On another front, Housing Preservation and Development is presently developing a plan in New York City for constructing affordable housing in several locations adding units on a 70% affordable level along with 30% market rate units. That’s promising as well.