We didn't think we'd still be here so long after Hurricane Sandy

Center for NYC Neighborhoods
Center for NYC Neighborhoods
Center for NYC Neighborhoods
Center for NYC Neighborhoods works to protect homeownership for low and middle-income New Yorkers.

We didn't think we'd still be here so long after Hurricane Sandy

A decade later the Center for NYC Neighborhoods is still working to protect homeownership.
July 9, 2018

Founded to combat the effects of the recession and foreclosure crisis, many didn’t think the Center for NYC Neighborhoods would need to be around 10 years later. But the reality is that families in New York are losing ground, and our work is far from over.

New Yorkers are passionate about their neighborhoods. That’s why becoming a homeowner and having the opportunity to personally invest in the city’s future is an aspiration for so many hard-working families.

Reaching the milestone of 10 years is a cause for celebration at our organization, but also shines a light on the shifting socioeconomic forces shaping New York City’s communities. As we reflect on our years of service, it is important to recognize how we arrived here so we can understand and prepare for the new challenges of the future.

CNYCN was first launched in 2008 by leaders from city government, philanthropy, the nonprofit sector, and finance as a response to the global financial crisis that crippled our economy and devastated the job market. The housing bubble had popped and families were struggling to keep their homes and avoid foreclosure and bankruptcy. Our founders shared a belief that the crisis could only be addressed through collaboration among different sectors and that through building a network of community-based organizations we could meet the complex and diverse needs of thousands of homeowners at scale. From day one, CNYCN was the largest, most comprehensive local initiative in the country tackling the foreclosure crisis.

But while the financial crisis provided the impetus for CNYCN ’s launch, it proved to be only one of many obstacles facing working and middle-class single-family homeowners.

When Hurricane Sandy devastated our coastal communities in 2012, CNYCN raised $1.3 million to address the immediate unmet needs on the ground. Further building on these efforts, CNYCN launched a pioneering program in 2016 funded by the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery to provide homeowners audits of their homes to determine how vulnerable they are to future flooding and extreme weather. We also launched FloodHelpNY, a web portal aimed at educating residents about flood risks.

Most recently, in response to the housing affordability crisis, CNYCN collaborated with partners in the public and private sectors, including founding corporate partner Citi Community Development, to launch the first citywide community land trust, Interboro CLT, dedicated to affordable homeownership. Through our New York Mortgage Assistance Program, we committed $19 million last year in low-interest loans to help families keep their homes. Collectively, these programs and services are designed to meet a complex and intertwined array of homeowner concerns that in one way or another affect the entire city.

The city has made affordable housing a top priority. This usually brings to mind affordable subsidized units as part of sweeping large new developments. However, family homeowners also represent a quarter of the housing market and more than one-third of those homeowners provide affordable rental units.

Despite the work of CNYCN and its partners, the legacy of the foreclosure crisis and predatory lending has resulted in tens of thousands of families at risk of losing their homes. Furthermore, prices are skyrocketing. Speculation is mounting, primarily in communities of color, and working families are being priced out of homeownership. This exacerbates income inequality and the racial wealth gap and threatens to make New York City affordable only to the wealthy. Today, nearly half of New York City’s homeowners are in a precarious financial position putting 30 percent or more of their income towards mortgage and other housing costs.

For the past decade, CNYCN has been proud to serve New York’s homeowners. We have provided $102 million in housing assistance since 2008, primarily serving families of color who earn around $45,000 a year.

CNYCN and its partners will continue to respond to the complex and expanding challenges homeowners face throughout the city as we all battle against forces that threaten our homes and our communities. It is our mission to help families regain as much control as possible from economic challenges, environmental catastrophes, urban inflation – and whatever comes next.

Christie Peale
Christie Peale
is the CEO and executive director of the Center for NYC Neighborhoods.
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