2018 Annual Community Showcase: A Red Carpet Affair
With so many people in need streaming into NHS Brooklyn each year, we’ve helped write chapters in countless people’s lives. Happy stories, of families buying their first home, getting a new roof, or remodeling to accommodate senior parents; even thrillers about homeowners who were facing foreclosure or were scammed and, with our help, prevailed.
All these dramatic stories are why we chose the Hollywood theme “Lights! Camera! Action!” for our Annual Community Showcase, held on October 25. Executive Director Tonya Ores set the scene with a few tales, such as the ones about:
A 30-year-old professional single woman, who rents in Coney Island and is saving money to buy a home somewhere in Brooklyn but who needs to rebuild her credit. She reaches out to NHS Brooklyn and Rodney, Program Manager for Homeownership, advises her to come to a First-Time Homebuyer Seminar and attend an upcoming Financial Coaching workshop to get on track.
A reliable, rent-paying senior, who has lived on Lenox Road for more than 25 years. Her landlord ignores her requests for repairs, hoping she’ll move out, so he can move in a higher-rent-paying tenant. She is comforted by Housing Counselor Sandra, who invites her to our next tenants’ rights workshop.
A long-time Brooklyn small business owner who wanted to get more involved in the community. He learns about NHS Brooklyn at a Community Board 18 meeting from Tyrone, our Government & Community Manager, who invites him to volunteer at an upcoming NHS Brooklyn event. He is delighted to meet so many like-minded, involved Brooklynites, and develops into a resident leader.
At the Showcase, NHS Brooklyn recognized three outstanding supporters of Brooklyn residents:
Jim Bandelli, owner of Bandelli Insurance Agency, who has helped scores of Brooklyn homeowners affected by Superstorm Sandy to understand home and flood insurance.
Zenobia E. McNally, our former Board Vice President and current Advisory Board Member, who created and enhanced housing programs and community events.
NYS State Senator Kevin Parker, for his unwavering support of NHS Brooklyn and his tireless advocacy of affordable housing and funding for homeownership and maintenance.
Strong partnerships with nonprofits whose missions complement ours as well as local elected officials help us provide much needed services and resources. Some elected officials who attended the Showcase or who sent greetings shared why they support our work in their districts:
Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams: “Everyone needs a place to call home. NHS Brooklyn has steadfastly focused on revitalizing neighborhoods by preserving affordable housing and providing opportunities for homeownership education, financial assistance, and community leadership. I applaud the mission of NHS Brooklyn, and thank everyone present for helping us move forward as One Brooklyn.”
Council Member Inez Barron: “NHS Brooklyn helps our community’s renters and homeowners by emphasizing social and economic development in addition to quality affordable housing.”
Council Member Alan Maisel: “NHS Brooklyn is one of the first organizations that came to assist Canarsie residents after Superstorm Sandy and continues to offer important assistance, information and counseling.”
Council Member Mark Treyger: “NHS Brooklyn’s programs help families thrive, while their homeownership services strengthen the fabric of countless neighborhoods, block by block.”
Council Member Jumaane Williams: “NHS Brooklyn’s partnership with my office to directly aid the people of my district continues to have far-reaching, positive impact on the lives of my constituents.”
NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer: “We need more affordable and accessible housing in New York City. By addressing the needs of current and future homeowners, NHS Brooklyn makes a tremendous impact on our City.”
Honoree NYC Senator Kevin Parker summed up the event with these words, “Everyone gathered this evening, through our collective efforts, takes care of our community’s deepest needs.”
In this season of giving, we are grateful for the support of our partners and welcome continued support in the new year.
DOF Trains Staff on Property Taxes
Our housing counselors routinely examine clients’ property tax statements to make sure the clients are receiving all the exemptions to which they’re entitled. Because of the wide variety of homeownership and living arrangements, we sometimes have to refer clients to the NYC Department of Finance (DOF) for assistance.
To decrease these referrals, we invited DOF to hold a “Train the Trainers” workshop at our East Flatbush office this fall for a deep dive into how homeowners can reduce their property taxes.
In the 3-hour session, we learned more about the various exemptions available to homeowners—senior, disabled, clergy, and veteran being the most common--and the conditions under which each applies. “Some of the exemptions mean a significant tax reduction,” said DOF Outreach Liaison Sonia Villamil. “For example, the Senior Exemption will cut the property taxes of a homeowner who is 65 or older with a household income of $58,399 or less in half. That’s a huge savings, especially for someone on a fixed income.”
The workshop also covered how property owners may challenge the market value of their home and correct the description of their property, if the error is causing them to pay more taxes than required.
We value our strong partnership with DOF and appreciated their providing this training, so that we can provide our clients with even more detailed information on how they can reduce their property taxes.
Home Repair Grant Program – Round 2
For Round 1 of the NYS Affordable Housing Corporation (AHC) Home Repair Grant Program, NHS Brooklyn disbursed 40 grants with an average value of $18,500 to income eligible homeowners whose primary residences needed a new roof, electrical work, plumbing repair, or other emergency repair.
Given the overwhelming response to Round 1 of the program, we’re pleased to announce Round 2, which will again allow us to offer Brooklyn homeowners grants of up to $20,000.00 for home repairs. Owners of co-ops, condos, or 1- to 4-family homes may apply. Eligible repairs include a new boiler, water and sewer line replacement, conversion from oil to natural gas heating, handicap accessibility improvements, and others. Grantees will again be required to occupy a unit in the home for at least 10 years. If the property is sold in less than 10 years, some or all of the grant must be repaid.
Applications are available on our website www.nhsbrooklyn.org/repair-grants or at our East Flatbush or Canarsie offices and will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis.
Housing Resource Fairs
Several times a year, NHS Brooklyn organizes Housing Resource Fairs: events that offer free seminars, information, and giveaways that draw hundreds of homeowners, home buyers, and tenants hungry for knowledge and ways to improve their housing situation for themselves and their families.
In September, we teamed up with Flatbush Development Corporation to offer a Homeowner and Tenant Resource Fair at God’s Battalion of Prayer Church in East Flatbush. Tenants came by the dozens to learn about their rights, improving their credit, and applying for Brooklyn’s many affordable housing lotteries. Homeowners packed rooms to hear about strategies to reduce property taxes, ways to reduce a mortgage, fall home maintenance tips, fire safety, wills and trusts, and more. Counselors were available to help homeowners one-on-one with mortgage issues, home repair funding opportunities, and home insurance questions. Tenant counselors were also on hand to help renters facing eviction, eligible for a rent freeze, or having difficulties getting repairs. Meanwhile, in the exhibit hall, reps from over a dozen government agencies and nonprofits handed out critical information, answered questions, and made referrals.
Then in November, we offered a Housing Resource Fair in East New York that focused on the needs of home buyers. In addition to our popular Pre-Purchase Seminar, we offered specialty seminars on the difference (in terms of financials and legalities) between purchasing a condo and a co-op, and on the pros and cons of purchasing a foreclosure or HUD property.
These popular fairs are open to the public and free of charge. Subscribe to our website at www.nhsbrooklyn.org for future dates for these and other upcoming events.
Three Time's a Charm
Two seniors, retired and on fixed incomes, came to NHS Brooklyn last year for Foreclosure Prevention services. They’d received a loan modification six years ago, but after one of them retired, they fell behind with their monthly mortgage payments and were in danger of losing their beloved home.
The counselor reviewed their financial documents and explained their options. They decided to pursue a loan modification. Their counselor assisted them with the application for loss mitigation, but their application was denied. Continuing to work with the counselor, they reapplied through a new program the servicer was offering. Unfortunately, during the review process, their loan was transferred to a new servicer, who required that they file all over again.
The home owners were ready to give up, but the NHS counselor, Angella, had seen this happen before and encouraged them to submit a third and last time.
They did and their counselor was as happy with the outcome as her clients were for themselves. They were approved for a HAMP trial payment, and the final modification agreement went through a few months later. The interest rate of the loan was reduced from 5% to 3.125%, and the term of the loan was extended to a 40-year term. The best part of the story is that their monthly payment was lowered from $2,709.96 to $1,883.09--a 30% reduction!
We’re so pleased that these homeowners now don’t have to struggle every month and can enjoy their golden years.
If you or someone you know is at risk of losing their home to foreclosure due to a water or property tax lien, is in mortgage default, or is just struggling to keep up with monthly mortgage payments, contact our Foreclosure Intervention Program at 718-469-4679 for immediate attention.
Pearls After the Purchase
Robin Prince, a single mom who has lived in NYC for 28 years, faced a frustrating hurdle when she set out to buy her first home: She earned too much to qualify for some down-payment assistance programs and yet not enough to afford the steep prices of Brooklyn properties.
When she came to us for home buyer education, our counselor guided her through the home-buying process. It took her a year, but she finally found a one-family in Mill Basin she could afford. Then our counselor helped her obtain a $15,000 closing-cost grant from Bank of America and a $7,000 grant from Citibank, her mortgage lender.
“I always wanted to own a home. Even when I was in high school, I wanted to own a home and a car. I like my freedom and having my own space,” said the Guyana native, thrilled with her new place and eager to share her experience. “Make sure you have enough money saved, because your account will be depleted after the purchase,” she advises. “Don’t spend all your money making your home look cute when you first move in. Fix things! And be ready for property taxes to go up every year.”
For more information on our home buyer education program and to attend a free orientation seminar, visit www.nhsbrooklyn.org/upcoming-events and search for the next First-Time Home Buyer Seminar, or call 718-469-4679.
Foreclosure & Mortgage Clinics – Call 718-469-4679 for dates, locations, and to register
Home Maintenance Training: Level 2 - Check website or call 718-469-4679 for 2019 schedule
Insurance Review Workshops – Multiple events & locations
Tenant Rights Seminar - Call 718-469-4679 for early 2019 schedule