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NYC plans overhaul of controversial debt collection system

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New York City officials have started taking decisive steps to replace a contentious debt collection system by the end of the fiscal year, responding to mounting concerns over unpaid property taxes.

The city’s finance commissioner confirmed that plans for a new approach are in their final stages.

The urgency for change is underscored by recent reports revealing the detrimental impact of the city’s tax lien sale on vulnerable communities. According to two separate reports released this week, the existing system has disproportionately affected low-income New Yorkers, potentially exposing them to foreclosure, deed theft, and unsafe living conditions, particularly in neighborhoods with large communities of color.

The findings of the Center for NYC Neighborhoods shed light on the distribution of tax liens, showing that approximately 57% of the 1,499 small properties with liens sold in 2021 were situated in areas where more than half of the residents were non-white.

This included predominantly black neighborhoods in southeast Queens and central Brooklyn, raising concerns about the equity and security of homeowners in these communities.

In response to these revelations, a spokesperson for Council Speaker Adrienne Adams emphasized the City Council’s commitment to implementing protective measures for homeowners, especially seniors, veterans, and individuals in communities of color who are disproportionately impacted by the current system.

Speaker Adams previously introduced legislation authorizing the last tax lien sale in 2021, but the Council now seeks to enact solutions that safeguard homeownership and equity accumulated over generations.

The forthcoming replacement of the debt collection mechanism represents a pivotal moment in New York City’s efforts to address systemic inequities in property tax enforcement. With unpaid property taxes on the rise, city officials are poised to usher in reforms aimed at fostering greater economic stability and security for vulnerable homeowners.

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