Abolish The Tax Lien Sale

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The tax lien sale, the practice of selling municipal debt to a private, investor-backed trust, fuels speculation and displacement in Black and brown neighborhoods, and siphons wealth from communities already disproportionately harmed by historic inequities like redlining and disinvestment.

Diagram of the existing NYC Tax Lien Sale system by Sam Kattan and Rania Dalloul (March 2022).

In Summer 2020, ENYCLT convened a citywide coalition to demand that the City Council and the Mayor abolish the tax lien sale, and develop an alternative system of tax collection and property disposition that promotes neighborhood stability and equity through supporting community land trusts (CLTs).

Reports/Proposals: 

Coalition members: East New York CLT, Community Service Society of New York, New Economy Project, TakeRoot Justice, Western Queens CLT, Brooklyn Level Up, Bronx CLT, Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, the Coalition for Community Advancement and the New York City Community Land Initiative, MHANY Management Inc.

Endorsers: New York Civil Liberties Union, New York Communities For Change, The Center for NYC Neighborhoods

Campaign Milestones:

  • February 2022 – As a result of the work of the Coalition, authorization for the sale of liens to an investment-backed trust has expired. The Coalition is now working with elected officials and the administration on the design and implementation of a new debt collection system for New York City.
  • The Coalition held two rallies in anticipation of the tax lien sale authorization law expiring on Feb. 28, 2022. We put the tax lien sale on trial for charges that included displacing families at our Feb. 12 rally (read the press release) and we bid it farewell at City Hall on Feb. 28. (read the press release).
  • December 17, 2021 – The City held a tax lien sale despite the ongoing pandemic and major community opposition. Prior to the sale, ENYCLT members knocked on the door of every tax lien sale at-risk home in Council Districts 37 and 42 and were able to help many homeowners apply for the COVID-hardship exemption. The city sold the liens from 2,841 properties. According to DOF, 941 property owners who applied for the COVID hardship exemption were pulled from the lien sale. 
  • April 2021 – As required by Local Law 24, the Mayor and Speaker of the City Council to appoint a Task Force to study and publicly present alternative ways to handle debt collection outside of the tax lien sale. The law explicitly stated that the task force “must study the potential “transfer of properties with delinquent property taxes, sewer and water rents subject to a lien to community land trusts, land banks, mutual housing associations or other similar entities.” ENYCLT Board Secretary Debra Ack was one of only two community advocates appointed to the 11-member taskforce. She was supported by Paula Segal, attorney at TakeRoot Justice.
  • January 2021 – In response to advocacy, the NYC City Council passed legislation reforming the New York City’s tax lien sale (Local Law 24 of 2021) significantly and paving the way towards ending the tax lien sale permanently. The bill permits the fewest liens to be sold on small homes in the history of the lien sale. Read details.

Press: 

Brooklyn Paper: Controversial Tax Lien Sale Comes to a Bitter End, For Now | March 1, 2022

City Limits: As NYC Considers Scrapping Tax Lien Sale, Land Trust Plan Gains Steam | Feb. 28, 2022

Harlem World: Activists And Electeds Cheer End Of The Rudy Giuliani Created NYC Tax Lien Sale | Feb. 28, 2022

BK Reader: Housing Rights Activists Put Tax Lien Sale on Trial for Displacing Families of Color in Brooklyn | Feb. 16, 2022

The Baffler: Lien on Me | Feb. 10, 2022

The City: Tax Lien Sales Tick Toward Expiration Date Without Alternative in Sight | Jan. 27, 2022

NYS Focus: Tenants Suffer As City Sells Landlords’ Tax Debt to Speculators | Oct. 15, 2021

BK Reader: A Tax Lien Sale Is Happening in Dec and BK Organizers Are Rushing to Support Homeowners | Sept. 13, 2021

Kings County Politics: Tax Lien Sale Bill Asks for Reform Taskforce | Feb. 3, 2021

Politico: Council rankles de Blasio administration after pulling tax lien bill | Dec. 21, 2020

The City: Council Considers Killing the Tax-Collection Machine Rudy Giuliani Built | Oct. 22, 2020

Bklyner: Activists And Lawmakers Call To Abolish City’s Tax Lien Sale | Oct. 14, 2020