Home Matters: Winter 2020 Newsletter

Updated: Dec 16, 2020


Tonya Ores, NHS Brooklyn Executive Director

From the Desk of the Executive Director


Dear Friends,


2020 has been a year like no other. It began as a new year usually does: on a hopeful note. Then, before we knew it, our lives were transformed. Suddenly, we were using phrases like “unprecedented” and "the new normal."


Yes, a lot has happened since January—from the coronavirus pandemic to the demand for marginalized voices to be heard to a presidential election. Reflecting on these changes and our work here at NHS Brooklyn, I’m reminded of a quote by Kristina Safran:


"Sometimes knowing when something is not working and pivoting to something new leads to our greatest opportunities and successes."


Since 1982, residents have turned to Neighborhood Housing Services of Brooklyn (NHS Brooklyn) to learn about purchasing a first home, avoiding foreclosure, maintaining their home, landlord and tenant responsibilities, financing, and neighborhood revitalization.


When the pandemic struck, so many experienced financial and, in some cases, personal loss. As the quote underscores, being resilient in uncertain times and flexible enough to adapt to a changing environment became critical. Because our programs became more important than ever, we modified them to address our community's new needs and challenges. In this newsletter, you’ll read how.

We’ll also share our pride in our Housing Counselors, all of whom have now passed the arduous HUD Counseling Certification Exam. In passing this exam, our counselors have demonstrated a professional level of understanding of financial management; property maintenance; the rights and responsibilities of homeowners and tenants; fair housing laws and requirements; housing affordability; rental and mortgage delinquency; and how to avoid eviction and mortgage default. A great accomplishment by the NHS Brooklyn team and an enormous benefit to those we serve.


Our board has also changed. After 13 years of service, Mr. Alfred Payne has passed the baton of Board President to Mr. Serghio Adams, a resident leader who is committed to NHS Brooklyn’s mission. Mr. Payne has greatly impacted NHS Brooklyn’s work in the community and played an integral role in repositioning the organization to be stronger now and in the future. Please join us in thanking Mr. Payne for his contributions and in congratulating Mr. Adams on his new role.

Wishing you all safety, health, and wellness,

A Word from our Board of Directors: We can’t do it without you!


NHS Brooklyn Board of Directors

Greetings,


On behalf of the Board of Directors of NHS Brooklyn, thank you for your support of our mission to assist Brooklyn residents with their housing needs. In spite of the worst pandemic in a century, we continue to offer tenant counseling, home-buyer education, mortgage checkups, foreclosure intervention, home repair assistance, financial coaching, property insurance counseling, landlord training, and other programs.


Although there are no simple solutions in these unpredictable times, NHS Brooklyn is committed to responding to emerging community needs by providing critical housing resources.


Recent business shutdowns along with federal, state, and local government measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 have limited the ability of many tenants and homeowners to earn income. With tenants unable to pay rent and homeowners and small landlords unable to pay their mortgage, they face possible displacement at a time when shelter is of the utmost importance. This reality makes NHS Brooklyn's mission to deliver housing services to local communities more important than ever. Your tax-deductible gift of any size will help us continue our vital services.


Although we’ve been operating remotely since the onset of the pandemic, we have offered over 65 webinars to over 3,000 residents on a variety of housing topics and anyone can reach us by phone, email, via social media, and through our website during normal business hours. We also continue working closely with our partners to advocate for our community, which recently included launching a campaign to encourage funding of affordable housing and foreclosure relief programs.


What Can YOU Do to help?


As you read this newsletter in the comfort of your home, please think of those less fortunate. By supporting NHS Brooklyn, you can help spare your neighbors and their children the trauma of losing the family home or apartment at this crucial time in our lives. Here are three easy ways to donate anytime. Choose the one that's best for you!

Thank you in advance for your support.


Yours in Keeping,


Board of Directors

Neighborhood Housing Services of Brooklyn CDC, Inc.



Serghio Adams, NHS Brooklyn Board President

Meet our New Board President: Serghio Adams


Serghio Adams is the Chief Executive Officer at Brothers’ Building Blocks, a privately held health, wellness, and fitness education company. Serghio founded the company with the mission of providing high school and college students with tools to prepare successfully for their academic futures and for everyone to live healthy lives through a balanced diet and exercise. He is currently repositioning the company to be a national brand offering innovative programming that uses technology to attract, entertain, and educate.


Prior to founding Brothers’ Building Blocks, Serghio led college initiatives for the outreach department for Long Island University, where helped hundreds of high school students to earn up to 30 college credits before applying for higher education. During this time, he spearheaded partnerships with over 100 middle and high schools across Brooklyn to provide a pathway for students to earn college credits that they could leverage in applying for college full time. He was also Assistant Director and then Project Director of the Science & Technology Entry Program (STEP), the Collegiate Science & Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), and the Smart Scholars Early College Scholars Program (SSECHS).


Serghio holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, Psychology and Communications, and a Master of Arts in Political Science and United Nations Studies from Long Island University.



Help Us Help Your Neighbors this Holiday Season!


Home. The word evokes so many pleasant, loving images, and during these unprecedented times, our homes have become our havensa sanctuary, where we reconnect with ourselves and each other, home school our children, and share a meal.

But it's not that way for everyone. Because of COVID-19, many families are at risk of losing the place they call home. By the end of the year, mortgage moratoriums and renter stays will expire, and some of our neighbors will have to fight to stay in and keep their homes.


COVID-19 has had a disproportionate effect on the communities we serve, and they will be the ones who suffer the most. The hard truth is that individuals and families are facing displacement at a time when having a home is critical.


You can help them in their fight by making a meaningful donation to support our work keeping families in their homes and our neighborhoods thriving.


No amount is too small, and every dollar you donate helps to secure a vibrant, stable future for Brooklyn residents and communities.


Imagine the powerful impact you'll have when you support your neighbors.


NHS Brooklyn is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and donations are tax-deductible.



3 Ways to Help Us Help this Holiday Season!


1. Text NHS Brooklyn to 44-321.

Text "NHS Brooklyn" to 44321 to donate anytime!

2. Donate securely on our website


3. Shop on Amazon with Amazon Smile with NHS Brooklyn as your chosen charity.


However you choose to support NHS Brooklyn this season, you'll have our heartfelt thanks!



Congratulations to our Counselors!


NHS Brooklyn has always had a commitment to providing high quality, effective, results-oriented housing counseling. Our staff continues to raise the bar on professional competency and agency credibility, and inspire confidence with residents by complying with the HUD Final Rule that all of a nonprofit housing agency’s housing counselors be certified.


We are proud to announce that we are one of the only HUD-certified counseling agencies in NYC at which 100% of the counselors have passed HUD’s rigorous certification exam. HUD certification assures that our housing counselors provide informed, up-to-date counseling to those we serve.


As a HUD-certified housing counseling agency with professionally certified housing counselors, NHS Brooklyn is more prepared than ever to help Brooklyn residents achieve better credit, grow their savings, avoid foreclosure, and keep their homes.



Government & Community Relations

by Tyrone McDonald, Government & Community Relations Manager


NHS Brooklyn's Outreach & Impact


We are proud to have offered over 3,000 homeowners, tenants, landlords, future landlords, home buyers, and elected officials 80 webinars since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. These numbers do not include approximately 12 live events held prior to March 15, 2020, which drew over 250 attendees.

Eviction Moratorium

Eviction Moratorium


Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in March, Governor Andrew Cuomo, passed and extended executive orders halting the eviction of residential and commercial tenants to prevent countless New Yorkers from being thrown onto the street.


The latest among these measures is the Safe Harbor Act, a bill introduced by the New York Senate and signed into law on June 30. The law prohibits “the eviction of residential tenants who have suffered financial hardship during the COVID-19 covered period.”


The “COVID-19 covered period” began March 7 and will continue as long as the executive orders and other laws restricting public or private businesses and places of accommodation are in force.


The law does not cancel money judgments that landlords may seek as compensation for back rent or eliminate a tenant’s obligation to pay rent each month. The Safe Harbor Act ends January 1, 2021.


If you have questions about your rights as a tenant and how they apply during the COVID-19 pandemic, please call NHS Brooklyn at 718-469-4679 or visit www.nhsbrooklyn.org.

Mortgage Moratorium

Mortgage Moratorium


An order suspending foreclosure during the COVID-19 pandemic on homes with federally backed mortgages was recently extended to January 1, 2021. The extension is a positive step for homeowners in financial distress because of the ongoing outbreak, but it’s not the only step. Homeowners’ need for guidance is urgent, and NHS Brooklyn has been on the frontlines to support at-risk homeowners.


In May 2020, an estimated 4 million homeowners took advantage of the government’s mortgage forbearance program as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Some, however, did not; have questions; or are just scared.


Anticipating the challenges that many homeowners will face because of the COVID-19 crisis, NHS Brooklyn has offered 2 Town Halls, 10 informational webinars, and one-on-one counseling over of clients facing foreclosure, at risk of delinquency, or simply struggling to pay their mortgage. The events included explanations of and updates on the CARES ACT; financial resources; and information for seniors on reverse mortgages. We have also assisted clients in obtaining forbearance agreements and applying for loss mitigation options, including modifications, repayment plans, refinances, and one-shot deals. Every webinar included important information on how to recognize and avoid mortgage fraud and real estate scams.

Our Town Halls Go Virtual

Our Town Halls Go Virtual


2020 has been a roller coaster of uncertainty, with conditions affecting our lives changing at a rapid rate. To keep residents up to date on burning topics like eviction and foreclosure moratoriums, health information, and social benefits, such as unemployment, affordable housing opportunties, and Stimulus payments, NHS Brooklyn switched from offering in-person to virtual town halls. Held May 28, June 16, June 24, October 1, and October 8 in collaboration with local elected officials, community-based organizations, and community boards, our Town Hall webinars drew over 400 attendees. Each had a focus on either tenant or homeowner concerns.


For updates on future webinars on how the COVID-19 is affecting tenants and homeowners, please subscribe to www.nhsbrooklyn.org

Teaming up with NYCHA on Homeownership

Teaming up with NYCHA on Homeownership


The 2020 pandemic did not diminish enthusiasm for buying a first home. Quite the opposite! Which is why, in addition to our now bi-monthly home-buyer orientations, NHS Brooklyn has participated so far in two home-buying webinars, held on July 28 and September 30, geared specifically toward residents of public housing.


Over 200 tenants attended the webinars, many eager to learn about the home-buying process in general and the “Section 8 to Homeownership” Program specifically.


The seminars were sponsored by the Resident Economic Empowerment and Sustainability (REES) Department of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA).


The purpose of the REES Program is to provide NYCHA residents with resources to enhance their lives, including but not limited to entrepreneurship, home buying, financial education, and job training. NHS Brooklyn has partnered with REES for two years.

Helping Homeowners During the Pandemic

Homeowner Help During the Pandemic


“Would I be eligible for a forbearance?” “Should I stop paying my mortgage?” “Would a modification be the best option?” These are some questions for which homeowners sought answers, as COVID-19 raised fears about their ability to meet their mortgage payments going forward.


On May 21 and September 10, concerned homeowners on New York Avenue between Glenwood Road and Avenue H, and President Street between Franklin and Bedford Avenues in Brooklyn reached out to NHS Brooklyn to conduct a virtual “Help for Homeowners” webinar to address their concerns and other issues unique to their neighborhoods.


In addition to Angella Davidson, Program Director of NHS Brooklyn’s Foreclosure Intervention Program, licensed real estate broker and CUNY professor Trisha Ocona and New York State Assistant Attorneys General Elizabeth Lynch and Ladov of the Bureau of Consumer Fraud and Protection also presented. Topics include options for homeowners experiencing mortgage distress, avoiding real estate fraud, and what a real estate agent can and cannot do to encourage you to sell your home.


Program Director Angella Davidson explained the New York State Mortgage Moratorium, which homeowners were eligible for a forbearance due to the federal CARES Act, and fielded questions from the participants.