Workforce Housing Advisers, the group that helped save 1520 Sedgwick , the Birthplace of Hip-Hop, is upping their ante in the Community Development world in the Bronx by moving beyond developing and preserving decent, safe affordable housing and starting a project that will benefit not only the tenants but the whole community in the Hunts Point area of the Bronx.
This was all started by a group of horribly distressed basically abandoned buildings located at 16, 920, 924, 928, and 935 Kelly Street. These buildings were all put in the city’s Alternative Enforcement Program (AEP) in 2007, meaning they were among the 200 worst buildings in NYC. The properties only continued to decline from there. But now, Workforce Housing stepped in, bought the debt, finished foreclosure and has begun a $16 million renovation of the properties with financing that ensures they will remain affordable in the future.
Considering their past exploits, this is merely par for the course for Workforce Housing. However, with Kelly St. they are taking a step further and initiating a project that will benefit the tenants as well as the greater community. The project is called Kelly Street Green, and its goal is to provide support for a healthy, fresh food purveyor in a commercial space in the Kelly Street buildings. The project is currently requesting proposals from interested parties, and a committee (that includes yours truly) will help determine who will ultimately run the space. The store will sell produce from local farms as well as the community garden adjacent to the properties. This project will be a huge gain for the community of Hunts Point which is often considered a “food desert” meaning it is extremely difficult for people in the community to acquire quality groceries.
Even better, as the Daily News reports, the space will be leased at a substantial discount and will receive up to $150,000 in start up grants. The person/group selected will also receive a rent free apartment in one of the buildings.
If you are interested in submitting a proposal, or just want to find out more about this project visit kellystgreen.com. We’re excited to participate in this innovative project, and are looking forward to hearing about your ideas!
From NY 1
According to New York 1 Mayor Bloomberg is blaming rising populations in NYC homeless shelters on “out-of-town homeless” seeking shelter in NYC. According to the Daily News out-of-town families in shelters have increased by 48% since 2008. Besides the immediate question of why we should only care about homeless families who are from New York City, the issues of increasing homelessness and lack of shelter space raises serious concerns about city housing policies around homelessness.
Patrick Markee of the Coalition for the Homeless, disagreed with the mayor. In his words:
“The real problem is we have record and rising homelessness in New York City,” Markee said. “The real problem is we have high rents and low wages. And the real problem is that the mayor’s policies are not working.”
We have seen, through our work, tenants being displaced by predatory equity and foreclosure. If this occurs, tenants often have no where to go except for the shelters. This crisis was intensified when the city moved to cut the Advantage program which had the specific goal of assisting homeless families. The Advantage program was created to temporarily help families pay rent so they could move out of the shelter and into an apartment. Unfortunately, the program was cut earlier this year even though there were 15,000 families who were enrolled in the program at the time. Since other rental assistance programs like Section 8 and the Family Eviction Prevention Supplement (FEPS) are either too full or have stricter restrictions on who can qualify, many people who lost the Advantage subsidy have no other recourse for rental assistance.
Whatever the reasons are for raising homelessness and lack of space in shelters, we all need to revisit programmatic solutions to help families both in shelters and those who are at risk of losing their homes.
Watch the video and read the full NY1 article here.
On Monday, I will be joining an impressive group of housing experts to discuss current housing issues and possible solutions for holding bad landlords accountable. This forum was inspired by the recent City Limits issue,”The Phantom Landlord” (a must read if you haven’t already) which focused on one landlord Frank Palazzolo and his inexplicable ability to remain untouched despite his involvement in many, many properties where bad conditions have been disastrous and even deadly for the residents. This forum will talk about possible legislation and strategies for holding landlords like this accountable.
The discussion will be held on Monday, April 23rd at the Scala Auditorium on the first floor of the Leo Engineering Building, 3825 Corlear Avenue (a block west of Broadway, between E. 238th and E. 240th streets). Please join if you can it should be a very interesting discussion!
For more information on who the panelists are and what will be discussed check out Bronx Matters!
An article in the Huffington Post today notes the rise in female veteran homelessness. Since 2006, the numbers of female veterans who are homeless has more than doubled. The article discusses several causes that have contributed to the rise in female veteren homelessness including post tramatic stress disorder and number of sexual assaults among female service members, as well as economic stresses. Whatever the cause, Misha McLamb, one of the women featured in the Huffington Post article makes a good point:
“I wasn’t a loser,” McLamb, 32, says. “Everybody who’s homeless doesn’t necessarily have to have something very mentally wrong with them. Some people just have bad circumstances with no resources.”
This is true for other homeless populations, not only veterans. Connecting homeless populations to resources is a struggle, that is only getting more difficult. Right now there are very heated discussions going on in Washington, DC about budget cuts. These cuts tend to have a disproportionate affect on those the most in need, including homeless populations or those in danger of becoming homeless. In NYC we are not strangers to this; the Advantage programs, a rent subsidy program used specifically for people and families who were formally homeless, was cut this past May. This has put a lot of people at risk who do not qualify for other subsidies, and therefore have little choice but to find somewhere else to stay. If they can’t find an alternative, they have no choice but to go to a shelter.
In the case of homeless female veterans, there is hope for progress. The following organizations were cited in the Huffington Post to support homeless female vets find housing:
The VA National Coalition for Homeless Veterans provides resources related to housing, health care services, military sexual trauma and information on how the needs of female veterans is evolving. Get involved with this VA organization here.
Steps ‘n Stages
The program provides transitional and permanent housing for homeless female vets. The organization also assists with job searches, mentoring, financial literacy and more. Get involved with Steps n Stages here.
The National Center on Family Homelessness
The national initiative supports local nonprofits and organizations that provide housing, as well as those that address domestic violence, mental health and other issues for families not necessarily directly enrolled in programs. Get involved with the National Center on Family Homelessness here.
National Call Center for Homeless Veterans
Homeless veterans and veterans at risk can find services at the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838), or online at veteranscrisisline.net.
Click here to read the rest of the article.
Last week, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) released a report: The Banks are Back, Our Neighborhoods are Not. The report examines how foreclosed housing is treated in white communities versus communities of color. The NFHA focused on Real Estate Owned (REO) single family housing: homes that went through the foreclosure process and are now owned by the banks.
Banks are not typically interested in owning property, so nearly all REO homes assumed vacant and for sale. According to the NFHA’s report, REO housing in communities of color is more likely to be in bad condition than REO housing in white communities. It is less likely to be properly signed or marketed to potential purchasers. Poor property maintenance will directly affect who will buy it. The way that banks market REO homes will have a direct affect on the surrounding community.
The foreclosure crisis has impacted communities of color on a greater scale than white communities, in part due to a racial targeting in the subprime mortgage market. “The Banks are Back, Our Neighborhoods are Not” shows that these communities of color are still experiencing foreclosure crisis at disproportionate levels. It also demonstrates how the Fair Housing Act is being violated by these discrepancies. According to NFHA, information from this study will be used in lawsuits and Housing and Urban Development administrative complaints for failing to uphold the Fair Housing Act statutes.
In our work we haven’t come across many multifamily REO properties. (In New York, there is no shortage of slumlords willing to buy run-down buildings.) However, we have seen how foreclosure is a greater burden to communities of color. Like the National Fair Housing Alliance, we believe that the lending community must be held accountable for its role in the foreclosure crisis, and join with the National Fair Housing in calling for banks to look closer at their lending practices and how they affect all communities.
Read the full report at the National Fair Housing Alliance.