New York City Public Advocate Letitia James called on Wednesday for increase protections for homeowners ahead of its annual water lien sale, which she claims would remove burdens on working families.
She called for low-to-middle-income homeowners to be excluded from the annual water lien sale, and to instead establish new education and advocacy programs to inform those homeowners.
“Every homeowner has a responsibility to pay their bills, but the punishment for late payment should not be selling the debt to private investors, who then charge high fees and force our working families into foreclosure,” James said in a statement. “Rather than imposing additional fines and liens, we must focus on programs that educate homeowners about their responsibilities and their rights, including payment plans. Owning a home is no small task, and we must create a stronger framework to support homeowners and not place undue burdens on our hardworking families.”
The city sells bonds backed by the water liens to a trust every May. The entitiy then can collect debt through a “servicer” and charge higher rates, which compound on a daily basis on unpaid debt. This disproportionally affects low-to-middle-income homeowners.
James encouraged the city administration to take steps to remove burdens for families, including a $183 credit for Class 1 homeowners towards their water bill, and that all owner-occupied Class 1 properties be removed from the water lien sales list.
“The Center commends the Public Advocate for standing up for middle-and-working-class homeowners in our City,” Christie Peale, the Executive Director of the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, said in a statement. “We should all work to preserve homeownership and not burden our most vulnerable neighbors with excessively high interest and fees as a result of the tax and water lien sale.”