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Tax lien sale would hurt immigrants most, say owners

New York City building owners are calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to delay the Department of Finance’s tax lien sale that is set to resume on September 4. 

The lien sale would instantly wipe out decades of equity built up by working-class immigrants who have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP).  

The group, which represents the owners of 400,000 rent-stabilized apartments in the city, says building owners who have fallen behind in their property tax payments are almost exclusively mom-and-pop shops. Many have renters who have not paid any rent for more than four months.

“The city cannot ignore the fact that the measures taken to protect tenants during this pandemic have had ripple effects, including a significant reduction in rent collections at thousands of properties,” said CHIP in a staement.

A recent survey by CHIP found that roughly 20 percent of small property owners have collected less than 60 percent of residential rent since the start of the COVID-19 emergency. “These housing providers are suffering along with their tenants. They will not be able to recover once they are sent down a path of debt, which starts with the tax lien sale,” said the group.

“There has been a lot of talk lately about systemic racism. Well, this is what it looks like. Government saddling people of color with a lifetime of debt so they can never get ahead,” said Jan Lee, a small property owner in Chinatown.  “Immigrants have been crushed by this pandemic. Government should be helping us, and not promoting third-party investors to profit off of the misery of small property owners and their BIPOC tenants.”  

“Unfortunately, we can’t say we are surprised that the self-proclaimed Marxist Mayor Bill de Blasio is using a global pandemic to profiteer on the backs of distressed working-class housing providers. But, we are disgusted by this mayor’s cruelty,” said Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP). 


“This sale will hurt hundreds of immigrants, who are the driving engine of this city and will play a key role in its recovery. A true progressive would be standing up for them, not punishing them.” 

The lien sale is administered by the NYC DOF, and part of a murky process that intertwines with the Third Party Transfer Program (TPT) and in rem foreclosure proceedings. The overall process has been the subject of extensive news coverage for potentially improper practices. In July 2019, the New York City Council held hearings and issued a report on the city’s improper use of the process and how it disproportionately impacted property owners of color and immigrants.  

Recent reporting suggests that DOF has made many mistakes in processing recent property tax payments, leaving hundreds of small property owners incorrectly billed or not informed of taxes they owe. 

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