Council Members, AG James want tax lien sale to be canceled
Recently, 19 council members led by Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. stood together to urge postponement of the Dec. 17 property tax lien sale considering the ongoing challenges the COVID-19 pandemic presents to New Yorkers.
New York City annually sells the delinquent property tax and water/sewer debts of homeowners to a third party, which then tries to collect on the debt and brings a foreclosure action for sale of the property. Although New York’s tax lien sale is intended to make property owners pay their taxes, the process of selling liens can pressure owners to sell their buildings to speculators or cut corners with maintenance to make up for the debt owed — all without oversight from the city and at the expense of tenants who are unaware of what’s happening behind the scenes.
The pandemic interrupted the necessary, robust community education and outreach events that normally precede the tax lien sale.
At a time when homeowners, like many other New Yorkers, are still attempting to recover from the devastating impacts of the pandemic, we should not compound their difficulties by adding a potential loss of housing, the Council members and others say.
“The city’s lien sale is intended to incentivize property owners to pay their taxes. But the sale this year will likely force minority property owners to lose generational wealth. It also threatens the homes of many renters, all while we are still reeling from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is clearly in the interest of New York City to delay the sale at this precarious moment,” said Council Member Robert E. Cornegy Jr. (D-Brooklyn), Chair of the Housing and Buildings Committee.
“New Yorkers must be given the chance to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic without the looming threat of being removed from their homes,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. “The tax lien sale has a disproportionate impact on communities of color and will only exacerbate the financial hardships so many are already facing in the middle of a pandemic. Now is the time to support hardworking homeowners, not saddle them with undue financial burden.”
“The tax lien sale is an outdated, counter-productive, and inequitable tool that disproportionately impacts people of color and senior citizens – the very populations hit hardest by COVID-19. We cannot continue to balance the city’s books at the expense of our most vulnerable communities, especially in a time of such great economic instability,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera, member of the Tax Lien Sale Task Force.
“When I voted against the city’s regressive lien sale scheme, I predicted that we would be at this exact place at this exact time,” said Councilman Kalman Yeger (D-Brooklyn). “In good times, the lien sale is highly unfair and unnecessary, as the city has more than sufficient collection tools at its disposal. But these are far from good times. The city has a moral obligation to those who are facing tough times, out-of-control tax bills, loss of income and the devastating effects of a still-ongoing pandemic to stand down from this planned lien sale.”
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