With just two days until the tax lien sale, elected officials have come together in a last ditch attempt to get Mayor Bill de Blasio to put a stop to it.
The sale, which has been accused of displacing vulnerable homeowners — particularly those of color in low income neighborhoods, was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic; dozens of elected officials have called on the City to cancel it again this year citing the pandemic’s ongoing effects.
On Wednesday, Brooklyn Councilmember Robert Cornegy and other electeds gathered to urge de Blasio to immediately “delay the imminent lien sale.”
“The City’s lien sale is intended to incentivize property owners to pay their taxes. But the sale this year likely will force minority property owners to lose generational wealth,” Cornegy said in a statement.
“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.”
The lien sale is held every year by the New York City Departments of Finance and Environmental Protection, where the tax liens on properties with unpaid property taxes and water bills are sold off in an auction.
The City sells the liens to a single authorized buyer, who does not take title to the property, but does purchase the right to collect the money owed plus interest and fees — ultimately multiplying the debt. If the property owner does not pay, the lien holder may foreclose on the property and the building will be sold at auction.
This year, the Department of Environmental Protection has opted out of the sale, which will only include Department of Finance held property tax liens, not water and sewer liens.
However, the reduced sale still includes 11,194 properties that have outstanding property tax and emergency repair payments that are past-due to the City. There are 3,657 one-to-three family homes, 3,295 apartment buildings and 4,242 other properties on the list.
In a recent analysis, the Coalition for Affordable Homes found that of the liens sold in Brooklyn in 2011, nearly half of the one- to three-family homes were sold within five years of the lien sale, compared to 13% of similar properties in the borough during the period.
Attorney General Letitia James said Wednesday that New Yorkers must be given the chance to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic without the looming threat of being removed from their homes.
“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,” she said.
“It’s time to create a better and more just system for New Yorkers, and I urge the Mayor to take immediate action to delay the tax lien sale.”
For more information on the sale and advice on how to get your home off the sale list, click here.