By: Trisha Ocona

The housing crisis brought on by the pandemic is an issue that affects everyone.

Whether you’re renting, owning your home, or making a living as a landlord, these times have been extremely challenging for all of us.

Many people wonder how to move forward and are pessimistic about what the future may hold for themselves and their neighbors. The June 30 deadline for the rent and mortgage moratorium is approaching fast, and if we do not take action, Brooklyn is in for serious trouble.

Dangerous levels of homelessness, predatory development, the displacement of families, and the depletion of our neighborhoods are what is at stake if we do not act now.

As more houses go into foreclosure, it seems more questions become unanswered. There are steps we can take as a borough to solve this crisis.

These steps include reviewing foreclosure court auctions performed by the New York State Supreme Court, electing leaders who advocate for housing, and demanding that New York Senate Bill S1256A becomes the law of the land. 

New York Senate Bill S1256A (also known as the ‘Cease-and-Desist’ Bill) has passed with enough votes in the New York Senate and is now under consideration by the New York State Assembly.

The bill, which is a revised version of an older bill, is designed to protect Brooklyn homeowners from being targeted by predatory developers and solicitors trying to take advantage of people in crisis. The previous version of the bill did not include some of the most vulnerable zip codes in Brooklyn, making them a target. It was no surprise that the protections of the original version excluded areas that are home to many Communities of Color.

As an East Flatbush resident and a former member of Community Board 17, I knew I had to do something to protect not only my neighborhood but the entire borough. I contacted my state senator who revised the bill to be reintroduced to the state legislature. The current version is more inclusive and aims to protect the entirety of Brooklyn. 

Currently, any home that goes into foreclosure is public knowledge. Investors, land developers, or unscrupulous real estate professionals review this public list of foreclosures, target these homes, and harass the owners to sell. They usually target the areas with the highest density of foreclosures, which often exist in low-income neighborhoods.

I can personally say that I witnessed thousands of homes in pre-foreclosure and nearly ninety homes per week that were scheduled to be auctioned off at the court in Brooklyn alone. My fear, post-Covid, is that this number will increase exponentially and give real estate predators even more properties to target. It essentially leaves all of Brooklyn vulnerable to development.

Even though non-profit organizations advocate for these homes, the investors and large business owners can devote more capital, edging out the non-profits. This scenario is why legislation and regulation are needed today before the moratorium deadline sends the housing market into a downward spiral. 

The “Cease-and-Desist” Bill ensures protections for residents from solicitation or harassment, it will answer to blockbusting, and slow gentrification. It will also prevent deed theft and housing fraud to the most vulnerable.

East New York has already passed protections for their area and Community Board 17’s Land Use Committee is leading the way with a campaign to educate residents on the issue.

As an appointed board member of the New York State Department of State Real Estate Board, I advocate for underserved communities and it is important that we protect our neighbors. That is why every Brooklyn resident must contact their state assemblyperson to encourage them to vote for New York Senate Bill S1256A, the “Cease-and-Desist” Bill. If this bill is not the law by June 30, Brooklyn is in for a housing crisis that could alter the borough forever. 

I have worked in the housing industry for over twenty years, so I fully understand the complexities of real estate and the seriousness of these challenges. Issues surrounding housing have been at the forefront of my entire professional career. It is the reason I am running for Brooklyn Borough President.

Housing is an issue that affects every single person living in Brooklyn. I want to make sure that our solutions to the Covid-19 housing crisis are fair, dignified, and just. We must protect the homes of our neighbors because they are the lifeblood of our borough’s culture.

We must preserve the history of Brooklyn and all of its diverse communities. With my leadership and the necessary legislative tools, I am confident that we can save Brooklyn and continue to make it our home, but only if we act now. Please call your state assemblyperson and demand that they pass New York Senate Bill S1256A, the ‘Cease-and-Desist’ Bill.

Trisha Ocona is a small business owner and Community and Housing Educator and Strategist. She is a lifelong resident of Brooklyn, spent over a decade on the Community Board, and years of experience as an active member of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of BK Reader.


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