City gets $1.65M to maintain, expand affordable housing through community land trusts

New Yorkers are one step closer to owning a piece of their nabe.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development announced Wednesday that it had secured $1.65 million in grants to help expand the city’s only community land trust (CLT) and support two new ones.

Under a community land trust, a nonprofit typically takes ownership of government-held land, which gives them the power to ensure buildings on that land remain affordable to local residents for generations.

The $1.65 million comes from settlements the state negotiated with banks over practices that contributed to the housing crisis. The banks opted to have the nonprofit, affordable housing group Enterprise Community Partners oversee the CLT initiative.

Elizabeth Zeldin, a senior program director at Enterprise Community Partners, said the funding should help showcase the risks, benefits and best practices of community land trusts.

“It’s not a lot of money; it’s a one-time infusion of capital,” she said. “But we’re looking to this as a demonstration of what works … so in the future, [community land trusts] can go to more traditional public and private financing sources.”

The grant includes $250,000 to help community groups and developers learn about CLTs through training and exchanges.

The funding will direct $400,000 to the Cooper Square Community Land Trust, which has owned housing on the Lower East Side for 20 years and is looking to expand its portfolio in the neighborhood.

Tom Angotti, chairman of the Cooper Square CLT, said the organization had helped the Lower East Side maintain 340 affordable condos and rentals while the neighborhood around them gentrified.

“The other real critical element is the community,” he said. “There are community members sitting on the board who know the community, have been around the community and are long-time advocates for affordable housing.”

Angotti said the new funding would help the CLT get loans to buy vacant or rundown buildings from the city and repair them. But Angotti said it was too early to tell which properties may be purchased.

About $500,000 is set aside for the forthcoming Interboro CLT, which plans to help lower-income families buy homes in central Brooklyn, southeast Queens, and eventually, citywide.

The group has identified about 150 sites where homes could be developed, according to Christie Peale, executive director of the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, one of several organizations planning to form the Interboro CLT.

Another $500,000 is slated for the East Harlem/El Barrio CLT. The group aims to offer apartments that are affordable to those earning under $30,000 annually, according to its vice chair, Lynn Lewis.

The trust anticipates that two distressed rental buildings will opt to join, according to Lewis. She said the CLT would like to acquire all the city’s vacant lots in East Harlem.

“They’re an asset of this community, and we want to make sure that the people that are here or that want to come home benefit from those,” Lewis said, noting that many East Harlemites have become homeless.