By Center for NYC Neighborhoods

Climate change and homeownership: Preparing for the future

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Following lessons learned from its work helping homeowners recover from Hurricane Sandy, the Center has pivoted to help coastal communities become more resilient to the severe storms and increased flooding associated with climate change. In 2015, the Center formed a recovery and resiliency team to focus its efforts.

A major project the team handles is the Home Resiliency Audit, where a qualified engineering firm assesses a home’s strength and resistance to flooding. A major benefit of the program is that homeowners receive an elevation certificate — valued at over $800 — at no cost to them, as well as a customized resiliency plan that can be shared with contractors, insurance agents, and others to help make their home more flood resistant. More information and an application is available at

We asked Rachel Eve Stein, Deputy Director of Recovery and Resiliency, three questions about climate change and homeownership. Stein, who is also a an activist in her personal time, previously worked in sustainability. Her experience is expected to inform the future direction of the Center’s work.

Why is climate change important to what we do at the Center, and for your work in particular?

Climate change affects all homeowners. Because of its effects, homeowners have to reconsider their cooling systems, prepare for more power outages, and retrofit their homes to combat flooding. Consequently, climate change affects residents in high risk flood zones the most, and more New Yorkers than ever before live in high-risk flood zones. FloodHelpNY exists to prepare homeowners in flood zones and, in particular, financially vulnerable homeowners, for the inevitable “superstorm.”

How are resiliency and sustainability related? How does this relate to homeowners?

Resiliency deals with the results of climate change. FloodHelpNY services bring to homeowners an awareness of the connection between resiliency and sustainability, and how climate change is adding to their already rising flood risks, and therefore insurance rates. We aim to expand people’s minds when thinking about their home, not just about their own personal well being and preservation of their property, but about how their actions affect our living environment.

Homeowners, unlike renters, have significant control over major choices they make over their living spaces. They can look into weatherization, solar panels, and more efficient appliances to make their homes more sustainable. They can fill in basements, move mechanicals, and install flood vents without having to go through a landlord. Homeowners have to make choices in their homes that affect their everyday, such as converting from incandescent light bulbs to LEDs, using fans instead of air conditioners, and reducing vampire voltage [energy used by appliances even when they are turned off]. All of these choices can help mitigate the effects of climate change on their homes and neighborhoods.

Tell us a little about the audits that some eligible homeowners receive by applying at What are they, and what is it like to have your home audited?

The Center, in conjunction with the New York Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery as part of the NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program, provides free audits for homeowners in flood zones.

I’ve been able to go on a few audits and watch the engineers in action. They assemble an incredibly comprehensive profile of the building, inside and out, which can give homeowners new insight on their homes and its structure. Many times, homeowners learn things about their homes that they never knew.

It’s also been really powerful to speak with the homeowners and to hear their stories. They are still feeling the impact of superstorms financially and emotionally. Seeing them so enthusiastic about our services is also a reminder that FloodHelpNY makes their lives easier!

Homeowners who have participated have noted that while their home flooded [during past storms], their neighbor’s home didn’t, and they wanted to know why. We have to inform them that it’s not necessarily an issue of weather, but an issue about home structure and the ground on which the home was built.

If you want an accurate flood insurance quote for a home in a high-risk flood zone, you’ll need an “elevation certificate” — it’s the only way to know how high your rate will go. Not sure how to get one? We may be able to help. The Center for NYC Neighborhoods can arrange for eligible households to get a free home resiliency audit and elevation certificate, saving you hundreds of dollars. To see if you qualify, visit our website:

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Victory for homeowners: NY State announces funding to assist homeowners

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[caption id="attachment_7319" align="alignnone" width="3264"]IMG_5484 (1) Advocates from across the NY State came together to lobby at the State Capitol in Albany, asking representatives to #ProtectNYHomes.[/caption]


This year’s state budget was completed over the weekend in Albany, and affordable housing advocates have a number of reasons to celebrate. Here’s how affordable homeownership priorities played out in the budget:

  • Foreclosure prevention funding: Homeowner advocates were successful in obtaining $10 million in the budget to fund foreclosure prevention services. Foreclosure prevention funding had been set to expire in September of this year, but thanks to a deal between Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the State Legislature, we now have sufficient funding to finish out this State Fiscal Year, which ends next March.
    This funding was a major priority for the Center, and we are thrilled to be able to continue state-funded foreclosure prevention services for the upcoming year, while we continue to  work with Governor Cuomo and the Legislature to secure a plan for permanent funding.
  • Reverse mortgages: The budget bills also made a legislative fix that will help senior homeowners at risk of reverse mortgage foreclosures. The new law will require mandatory settlement conferences before allowing lenders to move ahead with reverse mortgage foreclosures. This is great news, as it will give seniors at risk of foreclosure a chance to get connected with foreclosure prevention services and reach a solution to keep their homes.
  • Affordable housing plan: The state budget includes $2.5 billion for a five-year housing plan that will have a major impact on affordable housing and homeownership statewide. The plan includes $41.5 million for affordable homeownership programs in New York state, among other major investments in affordable housing, including supportive housing, senior housing, and NYCHA repairs.

We commend Governor Cuomo, the State Legislature, and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for reaching a budget deal that will protect homeowners at risk of foreclosure while creating new affordable homeownership opportunities for New York’s working families. We also congratulate our many partners in advocacy, specifically our fellow members of the Protect NY Homes Coalition and the organizations that campaigned for the $2.5 billion in housing plan funds.

Click here to learn our ongoing campaign and recent trip to Albany to secure foreclosure prevention funding.

If you or someone you know needs assistance, please call our Homeowner Hub at 1-855-HOME-456.


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7 reasons why we love community land trusts

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From New York to California, communities struggling with a shortage of affordable housing are giving renewed attention to a model of housing preservation that ensures home prices and rents stay within reach for low-income households.

In the community land trust model, a nonprofit organization retains ownership of land and sells or rents housing to lower-income households. To make certain would-be homeowners and renters benefit from the arrangement for years to come, the trust caps the resale prices and rents of the housing, maintaining affordability for the next homeowner.

Today there are around 250 CLTs across the U.S. and several organizations, including the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, are examining the model for use in New York City, where the affordability crisis is demanding innovative solutions.

There are a lot of reasons to love CLTs — here are seven of them.

1. CLTs help neighborhoods resist gentrification

When CLTs place land in control of communities, they are also taking land and housing out of the speculative market. That means that CLT housing remains affordable even when gentrification pressures mount, which protects families from displacement.

2. CLTs give more families the opportunity to own homes and co-ops

Fewer and fewer working families can afford to buy a home in the five boroughs. CLTs create opportunities for families to buy homes at affordable prices. When they decide to sell, they will keep a portion of the appreciation but will sell at a below-market price, making the home affordable to another family of limited means. Keeping the home affordable, from family to family, will benefit generations of New Yorkers rather than one lucky household.

3. CLTs give community members a meaningful voice in development decisions

Community members and CLT renters and homeowners are always involved in the governance of community land trusts. This helps direct the CLT toward development that is in the interest of its community and that reflects the values of its residents.

4. CLTs enable lower-income households to build wealth

A family that owns a house or co-op on a CLT benefits by steadily gaining equity in their home. The family can then use this equity as a downpayment on a market-priced home. In this way, CLTs act as a stepping stone for low-income families to go from renting to building wealth — which they can pass on to their children.

5. CLTs prevent foreclosures

CLTs take an active role in preventing foreclosure. They work with homeowners to make mortgages affordable and sustainable, and provide financial literacy education. They can also assist with major home repairs and intervene early when a homeowner is at risk of falling behind on his or her mortgage. As a result, CLTs typically experience low foreclosure rates. At the height of the foreclosure crisis, homeowners living in CLTs were 10 times less likely to be in foreclosure than homeowners in the conventional market.

6. CLTs make taxpayer dollars for affordable housing go further

Every affordable apartment or house is funded with significant government investment and when affordability restrictions expire — often in as little as 15 years time — the owner of the apartment gets to cash out. In the CLT model, tax dollars that are applied to the initial home construction are preserved for subsequent homeowners. This means public investments have a longer and larger impact in a CLT.

7. CLTs promote civic engagement

There are many examples throughout the country that indicate that residents who took leadership roles in their CLTs also became leaders in their local communities. Engagement on CLTs boards, committees, and sponsored activities can translate into residents acting to spearhead positive change within their communities.

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New York foreclosure prevention network calls for vital State funding

by Center for NYC Neighborhoods on 4 Comments


These are uncertain days for advocates working on the front lines to prevent homeowners from losing their homes to foreclosure.

While foreclosure filings in New York State remain high since the housing bubble burst — with nearly 34,000 new filings in 2016 and 72,000 pending cases in court — funding for the state’s only Foreclosure Prevention Services Network will end Sept. 30, 2017. At the same time the network is losing its funding, federal funding for programs to tackle the mortgage crisis have come to an end.

That’s why a coalition of groups including the Center for NYC Neighborhoods has come together to call on Gov. Cuomo and the State Legislature to commit $30 million in the New York budget to preserve these vital services through 2019.

On Feb. 13, 2017, nearly a dozen staff members from the Center traveled to the State Capitol in Albany with the Network to meet with individual state representatives. They spoke to politicians about the urgency of foreclosure prevention assistance, shared success stories of families whose homes have been saved, and discussed the importance of enforcing laws that penalize banks for failing to maintain vacant homes.


The Network presented a photo display in the lobby of the State Legislature’s building with facts on foreclosure and stories of homeowners whose homes were saved; “heart keys” were also distributed to each representative and the governor, reflecting the number of residential foreclosure filings and delinquency notices sent to homeowners in their districts. Representatives who support the funding campaign held a press conference on the state of the foreclosure crisis across the state, and invited two homeowners to share their stories and discuss the importance of non-profit legal services and housing counseling.


One homeowner who spoke at the news conference, a 71-year-old elderly woman, had already sold her car to be able to afford her mortgage payments. Another homeowner was only 10 days away from losing his home. Yet another was a Vietnam War veteran. It’s easy to see these individuals as just a number, representing one of the 33,500 pre-foreclosed homes in NYC alone, but they are also people — people who just want to stay in their homes.

“At a time of sky-high foreclosure filings, record homelessness, and zombie properties running rampant, continued funding for legal foreclosure prevention services and consumer protections is vital,” said Sen. Jeff Klein, Democrat who represents the 34th Senate District in the Bronx/Westchester, in a news release.

“Today, New York homeowners in need of help with their mortgage can access free, high-quality foreclosure prevention services to help them stay in their home,” said Christie Peale, the Center’s Executive Director. “Our network is there for New Yorkers, with offices in every county and New York City borough, but without State funding the network will have to turn away homeowners in need. We must not allow that to happen.”

Since the 2008 housing crisis, the Foreclosure Prevention Services Network has grown into a community of 63 housing counseling and 31 legal service providers. While the network was most recently funded by bank settlements from the mortgage crisis, that source of funding is now come to an end.

State funding would provide critical support to services that help homeowners facing mortgage distress to stay in their homes, whether through modifications or by holding mortgage servicers accountable. It is crucial that these organizations have the capacity and support to continue to provide much-needed services to homeowners across the state.

Are you in need of foreclosure prevention help or do you know someone who is? Contact the Center’s Homeowner Hub at 855-HOME-456 to get connected to free help from housing and legal organizations across New York.

PHOTO 1: The Network presented a photo display with statistics on foreclosure in New York, as well as homeowner stories.

PHOTO 2: NY State Sen. Jesse Hamilton speaks at the press conference, hosted by the Independent Democratic Conference & Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein.

PHOTO 3: Gov. Cuomo’s “heart key,” detailing the residential foreclosure filings and delinquency notices sent to homeowners across the state in 2016.

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Rebuilding a life and home after Hurricane Sandy

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Linda Gold in her home - Rockaway, Queens

Linda Gold’s husband died the night of Hurricane Sandy trying to save their home from the storm. “I had lost my husband and my house was in ruins,” she says. Even while facing unimaginable loss, Gold was about to begin a nightmarish journey to try to rebuild her home and her life.

Gold, with her husband Richard, had saved for a decade to purchase their two-story, two-bedroom home in the Belle Harbor section of Rockaway, Queens in 1979. The house was just one block from the waterfront.

Over their years together in the home, she and her husband had weathered many storms, but Gold decided to stay with a friend in Brooklyn as Hurricane Sandy advanced toward the city in October 2012. Her husband made the fateful decision to stay behind to secure their house and help others.

While struggling with her grief from the loss of her husband, she was unsure how to cope with the challenge of rebuilding her home. “My husband had always paid the bills, taken care of the insurance, and those type of things,” Gold says.

The reconstruction of Gold’s home was halted mid-way through excavation of her basement due to a complication with a permit. Officials told her she might need to forfeit her basement apartment, which she depended on for income — without it, she would have surely be unable to pay her mortgage and possibly fall into foreclosure.

She turned to NYLAG, a partner in the Center for NYC Neighborhoods’ legal counseling program for homeowners affected by Sandy. The Center, in conjunction with the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery Operations and partner organizations like NYLAG, has been the lead organization counseling homeowners whose houses were damaged by the storm. These services help homeowners secure construction assistance and overcome tough recovery challenges, including foreclosure, the need for temporary housing, and insurance. Over 3,500 cases have been resolved through the Center’s program for homeowners affected by Hurricane Sandy.

With help from her legal counselor at NYLAG and support from the Center, Gold won her appeal and obtained a special permit to kick-start the reconstruction of her home. “They helped me so much,” Gold says, praising in particular attorney William Friedman, who heads NYLAG’s Storm Response unit.

Gold praises the contractor and crew reworking the electricity in her house, repairing and repainting walls, and rebuilding her basement apartment from which she says she has lost approximately $30,000 in rental income over the years while the rebuild was in limbo.

But the challenges of rebuilding her life have left her undeterred. “I’m hopeful and optimistic, while still waiting to see the end of all this chaos,” she says.

To learn more about whether you’re in the floodplain, your flood risk and about flood insurance rates, go to

Read more about The Center for NYC Neighborhoods work, as well as more stories like Linda Gold’s on the Center’s Annual Report.

PHOTO:  In this photo, Linda Gold looks out her window of her home in the Rockaway, Queens borough of New York.

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Low-income NYC senior and disabled homeowners at risk of losing crucial benefits

by Center for NYC Neighborhoods on 2 Comments

NYC senior homeowners need to reapply for tax exemptions

Tens of thousands of senior and disabled homeowners have less than three months to renew two tax exemptions that can save them hundreds of dollars each year.

The New York City Department of Finance has sent letters to 55,000 homeowners asking them to renew the exemptions by March 15, 2017.

Both the Senior Citizen Homeowner and Disability Homeowner exemptions provide crucial financial help for lower- and fixed-income senior and disabled homeowners who need to stay afloat in a city with rising housing costs. If eligible homeowners miss the deadline, they may be at risk of losing out on financial benefits that can keep them from losing their homes and being able to age in place.

Our research shows that there is a large number of New Yorkers who would be eligible for these tax exemptions but do not know about them or have been unable to access them.

Based on a study of two sample districts, less than half of eligible seniors were receiving the benefit in Brooklyn Community District 5 (including East New York, Cypress Hills, and New Lots); only about two-thirds were in Queens Community District 12 (including Jamaica, Hollis, St. Albans). Eligible households must have a combined income of $37,399 or below.

(Source: 2014 Housing and Vacancy Survey; NYC Dept. of Finance June 2016 property tax bills)

At the Center, we lead a Senior Homeowner Initiative funded by the New York City Council that aims to ensure elderly homeowners can age in place and remain in their homes. Over the next few months, we’ll be coordinating with DOF and our network of legal services and housing counseling agencies to help reach out to senior homeowners and community stakeholders to spread the word about the renewal process and assist applicants with the application.

March 15, 2017 is the deadline to renew AND apply for the first time to receive the tax exemptions.

SCHE Re-application forms are available here and বাঙালি | 中文| français | kreyòl ayisyen | 한국어 | русский | español

DHE Renewal Application form available here and বাঙালি | 中文 | français | kreyòl ayisyen | 한국어 | русский | español

Read FAQs from the Dept. of Finance here.

If you or someone you know needs assistance, please call our Homeowner Hub at 1-855-HOME-456.

(Source for chart: 2014 Housing and Vacancy Survey; NYC Dept. of Finance June 2016 property tax bills)

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The future of foreclosure relief after the end of Obama’s signature mortgage relief effort

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Network Partner Photos 255

Housing counselors and advocates worked late into the evening on Dec. 30, 2016, helping homeowners meet the midnight deadline to apply for the Obama administration’s signature foreclosure crisis era mortgage relief program.

Although it is not immediately clear how many homeowners beat the rush, what is clear is that the future of foreclosure assistance for homeowners looks much more fragmented as lenders and regulatory agencies announce new efforts and guidelines for filling the void being left by the end of Making Home Affordable and its Home Affordable Modification Program.

The programs themselves, however beneficial, were far from perfect.

As The Washington Post reported recently, HAMP failed to meet its ambitious stated goal of helping up to 4 million borrowers, falling short by about 2.4 million by the end of 2016. The program was also criticized for its complexity by lenders and by advocates who claimed lenders lost paperwork or mismanaged cases. Many homeowners had to seek the help of housing counselors and legal advocates to get their applications through.

The U.S. Department of Treasury also found that the large mortgage services receiving billions of dollars for participating in the program had flouted its rules by miscalculating homeowners’ income, wrongfully denying applications and more, according to an October 2016 report by the Office of the Special Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the $700 billion taxpayer bailout.

Despite the program’s deficiencies, Making Home Affordable played a crucial role in helping to standardize best practices in loss mitigation across the industry. Before 2009 and the creation of these programs, “there was no standard approach among mortgage servicers or investors to assist homeowners who were making payments, but were at risk of becoming delinquent due to a financial hardship,” according to a white paper released in July by the U.S. Department of Treasury and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Some housing counselors have called the period before HAMP and MHA were introduced as the “Wild West” of mortgage modifications.

So what happens now? For much of 2016, lenders and federal regulators were busy charting the future.

In their white paper in July, the U.S. Department of Treasury, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development identified five core principles for any effort to replace the Home Affordable Modification Program: Consumers should be able to easily access options; plans should be affordable; they should be sustainable; all terms should be made transparent; and there should be sufficient oversight and accountability for the process. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also agrees with these principles, highlighting their mortgage servicing rules as a way to keep banks in check.

In December, Fannie and Freddie Mac, taking their cue from that white paper, announced the “Flex Modification,” which would give eligible borrowers a 20% payment reduction, and would borrow from the Obama administration’s program.

The Mortgage Bankers Association, meanwhile, has been backing what it has called the “One Mod,” which would require less documentation and little to no underwriting. This could be a much simpler option for homeowners and lenders. It also offers what the association calls “deep payment relief” through a six-step waterfall proposal.

In spite of industry-wide improvements in mortgage modification standards and new options, in the absence of HAMP, homeowners will likely face uncertainty and confusion about what to do when they need help with their mortgages.

This means that housing counselors and legal advocates will be needed more than ever to help navigate the new options and processes, assess affordability, and work with servicers to get homeowners the financial relief they need to keep their homes.

After all, applying for HAMP when it existed often required the help of a counselor, as Christopher Pinto told the Journal News in a recent story.

“I tried on my own, and it didn’t work,” said the 60-year-old homeowner from White Plains, who got his mortgage payment reduced to $1,100 through the program with the assistance of a local housing organization. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.”

Are you in need of foreclosure prevention help or do you know someone who is? Contact the Center’s Homeowner Hub at 855-HOME-456 to get connected to free, legal help from housing organizations across New York.

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What NYC’s tax lien sale means for affordable homeownership

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homes in NYC

We are pleased to join with our fellow members of the Coalition for Affordable Homes in releasing a new report that analyzes the unequal impact of New York City’s tax lien sale on homeowners.

The report, “Compounding Debt: Race, Affordability, and NYC’s Tax Lien Sale,” finds that the City is six times more likely to sell a lien on a home in a majority African American neighborhood than in a majority white neighborhood. Latino homeowners were two times more likely to have a lien sold on their home.

The report also documents how the tax lien sale feeds speculation and displacement.

Each year, thousands of homeowners who fall behind on their tax or water bills get placed on the City’s annual lien sale list. The City sells the outstanding debts to private investors who then turn around and add steep interest and fees. The initial debt can double in as little as a year, and failure to pay can lead to foreclosure.

Fortunately, this year the law authorizing the lien sale is up for renewal, which gives City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio an opportunity to make much-needed reforms to the lien sale and reorient the City’s tax collection policies toward affordable homeownership and housing preservation.

“We meet many older homeowners who are facing foreclosure because they cannot afford to pay the fees and interest that add up after a tax lien is sold,” said Samira Rajan, Executive Director of Grow Brooklyn.

“It is often too late to help our clients prevent the sale of liens by New York City to investors,” said Patricia Kerr, Director of Programs at Neighborhood Housing Services of Jamaica, Inc. “The fact is, when customers come to our offices they are usually in the late stages of their liens being sold by the City.”

Analyzing data between 2009 and 2016, the report found that homeowners who have their liens sold to private investors quickly find themselves saddled with ballooning debts, which can lead to foreclosure. Eastern Brooklyn and Southeast Queens — low-rise, predominantly black and Hispanic areas that contain some of the city’s last affordable neighborhoods — have been acutely affected by the sale.

These same neighborhoods were subject to immense wealth loss during the foreclosure crisis and have recently been targeted by speculators.

You can read the full report.

To see where liens were sold in 2016, go to our tracker.

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Coalition for Affordable Homes celebrates achievements of 1st year

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A year ago, more than two dozen organizations proclaimed that New York City’s neighborhoods are the “bedrock of its success” as they set forth an ambitious agenda for protecting affordable homeownership.

The Coalition for Affordable Homes, as it named itself, aimed to leverage the collective strength of 26 organizations to influence policy in order to tackle the rising cost of housing, battle predatory lenders, speculators and investors, and to develop innovative strategies to preserve and expand affordable homeownership. In September 2015, the Coalition released a policy platform that included calling for preventing the displacement of low- and moderate-income homeowners; expanding downpayment assistance; implementing a community land trust; and supporting the Community Restoration Fund to purchase distressed notes.

In the past year, the Coalition has made strides toward achieving its policy goals.

At the end of June, the city became the first municipality in the country to purchase distressed mortgage notes directly from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through the newly established Community Restoration Program. While the program initially bought 24 mortgages, the city plans to expand it as a new model for tackling foreclosures. Lawmakers at the state level also authorized the creation of a similar fund, but no money has been allocated for it so far.

This past spring, ahead of the city’s annual tax and water lien sale, the Coalition rallied to get homeowners off the list and to reorient the city’s tax enforcement toward affordable housing preservation. One big win was the support of Public Advocate Letitia James, who held a news conference to denounce the water lien sale as too burdensome on working 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 at the time. “Rather than imposing additional fines and liens, we must focus on programs that educate homeowners about their responsibilities and their rights, including payment plans”

The Coalition also advocated for fair housing practices across race and class lines. For instance, in May, it organized a homeowner event in southeast Queens called “I Deserve A Fair Mortgage, Too!” that brought together residents and housing advocates to discuss the legacy of redlining, as well as current predatory lending practices.

The Coalition also worked on multiple fronts researching downpayment assistance, deed theft scams and anti-displacement initiatives, such as cease and desist legislation.

But, by far, the biggest accomplishment of the Coalition has been to raise the profile of affordable homeownership in a city that too often overlooks its role in helping communities thrive.

To learn more about the Coalition and its policy platform, go to

In the above image, a homeowner speaks at a news conference where Public Advocate Letitia James called for changes to to how water lien sales are handled by the city. Credit: Center for NYC Neighborhoods.

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How one couple lost their condo, but found a new home in the Bronx

by Center for NYC Neighborhoods on 2 Comments

In this Friday, June 17, 2016, photo, Carmen Ramirez, and her husband, Ricardo Ramirez, embrace in their room at the Bronxwood Home for the Aged, in the Bronx borough of New York. A series of emergency expenses were enough to cost Carmen and Ricardo Ramirez their one-bedroom condominium in Washington Heights, a neighborhood close to the northern tip of Manhattan. Now a couple entering their golden years is out of their home and in an assisted-living facility. (AP Photo/Richard Drew) Carmen and Ricardo Ramirez had been living the American Dream of homeownership in Washington Heights when the recession interrupted it.

As recounted by The Associated Press in a recent story marking a decade since the housing crash, the couple had been managing the payments for the $299,000 adjustable-rate mortgage on their one-bedroom condominium in Upper Manhattan.

But the downturn and emergency expenses put their homeownership at grave risk in 2010.

That year, they had to shutter their steakhouse, a source of income. The next year, Ricardo fell, suffering a traumatic brain injury; Carmen suffered an injury to her leg and back in 2012. Their finances were further destabilized when funeral costs for her parents caused the couple to miss mortgage payments, “triggering fees for late payments that led to foreclosure,” the AP reported.

“Have you ever heard the saying, when it rains, it pours?” Carmen, 61, told the AP. “Well, it was one after the other with us.”

The couple was facing eviction from their condo when the New York City Consumer Affairs Department referred them to the Center for NYC Neighborhoods’ Housing Mobility program, which helps homeowners who can no longer afford to stay in their homes move to new housing. Since 2013, with support from the Mizuho USA Foundationthe program has helped more than 300 homeowners. The program combines one-on-one housing counseling, assistance in securing alternative housing, financial advice, relocation grants, and links homeowners to trusted realtors. Staff work closely with mortgage lenders to ensure that homeowners who are no longer able to retain their homes are released of further financial obligations.

“We are working with clients who face enormous challenges at the crossroads of the foreclosure crisis and New York City’s housing affordability crisis,” says Joseph Sant, Director of Homeowner Services at the Center. “Our goal is to help these families avoid homelessness, find affordable housing, and emerge with financial support as they close out a very difficult chapter in their lives.”

For Carmen and Ricardo Ramirez, that chapter in their life found a resolution in the Bronx.

Working with the Human Resource Administration’s Adult Protective Services, the Center’s Housing Mobility program staff was able to help the couple secure alternative housing at Bronxwood Assisted Living Residence just before an eviction order was executed by the Sheriff. The facility helped the couple to apply for an increase of their Social Security Income, so they could pay for all of their housing, food and care expenses.

The Housing Mobility Program also provided a one-time relocation grant of $500, and secured a $900 grant from Jarvie Commonweal Emergency Fund to help the couple as they worked to stabilize their finances.

But giving up their home did come at a cost: They lost the home equity they had built over the years.

“We got nothing back — except a tax bill,” Carmen told the AP.

That, as the AP reported, turns out to be the case for a “disproportionate number of minorities” who lost their homes in the aftermath of the housing crisis, and could have far-reaching consequences for wealth generation and racial divisions for generations.

PHOTO:  In this Friday, June 17, 2016, photo, Carmen Ramirez, and her husband, Ricardo Ramirez, embrace in their room at the Bronxwood Home for the Aged, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

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