Maintaining Housing Diversity The Tenants & Neighbors Coalition

In 1974, a group of New York City residents banded together to preserve affordable housing in the city and the push resulted in the creation of the advocacy group, Tenants & Neighbors. Since that time the nonprofit group has been working to preserve lower-income housing by organizing and educating residents of such housing across the city and the state.

Grassroots Education

The mission of Tenants & Neighbors is to preserve and protect affordable housing and to advocate for tenants’ rights and education. Tenants & Neighbors’ constituency includes tenants and organizations concerned with issues relating to federally subsidized housing, rent-regulated housing, and Mitchell-Lama housing. Statewide, Tenants & Neighbors has 18,000 members from 150 tenant organizations and other organizations. The group works to educate tenants of such housing—both renters and shareholders, as well as affiliated organizations to help them to preserve low-income housing and the concomitant protections that are afforded to its residents.

Tenants & Neighbors provides direct organizing for Mitchell-Lama tenants, and educates them on how the organizing tenants’ associations and by drawing tenants into coalitions, Tenants & Neighbors helps to empower Mitchell-Lama residents to work to save their housing.

Mitchell-Lama and Affordable Housing

Established in 1955 to encourage middle-income families to stay in the cities, including New York City, the Mitchell-Lama program gave tax breaks and low-interest loans and mortgages to cooperative developers. In exchange, developers would follow rules keeping rents, maintenance fees and purchase and resale prices well below market value for a period of time (generally 20 years), after which the co-op corporations could opt out of the program. In addition, the Mitchell Lama program provided eviction protection for co-op shareholders.

Now that the time limits have passed landlords can prepay any existing mortgage and give up their tax relief in order to charge market-rate rents. Many Mitchell-Lama building owners in New York City and throughout the state are taking advantage of the opportunity. More than a third of Mitchell-Lama developments have bought out of the program and more will likely go the same route. More than 55,000 apartments are now in danger of being converted, Tenants & Neighbors officials say.

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