This weekend, I was lucky to be invited to moderate a panel on homeownership at Chhaya CDC’s Fifth Annual Home Buyer Fair. Many of the questions that attendees asked the panelists brought home the issues that Mireya Navarro raised in her article last week on Mayor de Blasio’s goals for affordable housing.
Reading Ms. Navarro’s article confirmed my conviction that the new administration’s goal of preserving affordable housing must include strategies to preserve affordable homeownership. Almost one-third of New York City homeowners earn less than $50,000 per year, well below the city’s average. And these homeowners, in turn, create even more affordable housing–with more than a quarter-million small property owners renting out apartments. With that in mind, we can certainly say that affordable homeownership IS affordable housing.
And many of the New Yorkers at Chhaya’s Home Buyer Fair agreed that we need affordable homeownership options that are accessible to borrowers from a variety of backgrounds. Despite the snow, an impressive number of families came to PS 69 in Jackson Heights on Saturday to hear from community groups like Chhaya and learn more about homeownership.
One issue that came up repeatedly was the need for down-payment assistance programs. We heard from several families who were financially prepared to make monthly mortgage payments, but struggled to save the large amounts needed for down-payments. For the families at Chhaya’s event and many more across the City, homeownership can provide long-term affordable housing, an avenue for future asset-building, and an opportunity to invest in one of our City’s many amazing and diverse neighborhoods.
In order to address the needs of these families, we need broad access tools like down-payment assistance to help them enter into homeownership and maintain affordability for the life of their mortgages. We also need to provide new and existing homeowners with clear and comprehensive information. Through free housing counseling and legal services, we can provide access to programs and information that will promote and protect affordable homeownership for New Yorkers. By supporting affordable homeownership, the de Blasio administration will be able to achieve their appropriately ambitious affordable housing goals.