As part of our celebration of 40 years of service to the community, NHS Brooklyn will share profiles all year of former staff who helped our organization grow and thrive.
Michael Minott is a former Homeownership Counselor and Board member at NHS Brooklyn. In this Alumni Spotlight, Mr. Minott shares fond memories of the community, the staff, and those he helped.
How did you begin your career at NHS Brooklyn?
I graduated Cornell University in 1991, and NHS Brooklyn was one of my first career ventures. For three years, I was a homeownership counselor and financial advocate, trained to provide advice and counseling to homebuyers and homeowners. I developed step-by-step action plans that helped eliminate barriers to achieving homeownership. I also offered suitable options to help homeowners to keep and maintain their homes.
What are some of your fondest memories working for the organization?
I was a new graduate with limited professional experience, and NHS Brooklyn was the steppingstone to my professional future. NHS Brooklyn helped me to develop both my professional hard and soft skills. They embraced my curiosity and creativity and allowed me the autonomy to try new things. I can also honestly share that, of the top three supervisors I have ever had in my career, two are from NHS. Louis Kilkenny and Kathleen Parisi were servant leaders who inspired and mentored me.
Moreover, I have never worked for an organization that allowed me to grow and develop like NHS Brooklyn did. The staff was a true family. We believed in the organization's mission and genuinely enjoyed working with one another. The team collectively encouraged individual success, and the work we did bore a social return on investment. We truly changed lives.
Please share a situation where you saw the full impact of your work at NHS Brooklyn.
In 1994, a young couple visited the organization, seeking resources to begin the homebuying journey. The home they chose was in East Flatbush, near New York Avenue, but it was also in disrepair and would require extensive work. The purchase would only be possible with two loans, and traditional banks did not have a product that would accommodate that need.
Through creative collaboration, Rick Roberto, the former President of European American Bank and Trust; the NHS Brooklyn team; and I created a way: a purchase rehab loan, which is a form of financing that allows a borrower to fund the purchase and renovation of a home for sale using a single loan. We all worked diligently to get that young family into the home. In fact, not only did we help them purchase their first home and build economic wealth, but we also created a loan model that was replicated throughout the country. Along with other NHS innovations, the product morphed into the first NHS Homeownership Center in the nation, making it possible for thousands of low-income families to become first-time homeowners.
What was the community like when you were with the organization?
In the 1970s, my parents, like so many Caribbean and Haitian immigrant families, settled in East Flatbush, where they bought a home. The community where I grew up was rich in culture, and purchasing a home was paramount. After the high-interest rates of the 1980s, potential homeowners became more economically savvy. They looked for resources that helped them become versed in dealing with expenditures, credit, and other money matters. NHS Brooklyn formed at the right time to help families build long- term generational wealth by educating them on how to purchase a home or, if they owned a home, how to protect their investment.
What continued impact can NHS Brooklyn have on the borough?
As I mentioned earlier, I grew up in a home my parents purchased in the 1970s. Less than two decades later, however, that same home was unattainable, unaffordable, and out of reach for my siblings or me to purchase. Situations like that are becoming far more common.
Rent prices are also going up across the country. Many young people who grew up in Brooklyn are being priced out of the community because they can’t afford to rent or buy. Also, if you’re paying high rent, gathering a down payment is usually a significant cost barrier to owning a home. There are also other implications when current residents can’t afford to reinvest in their community, such as stripping a neighborhood of its art and vibrancy.
NHS Brooklyn’s community impact is rooted in creative collaborations around funding, expertise, and resources. NHS Brooklyn can continue their impact by creating opportunities for cooperative economics, developing affordable properties for purchase, and working with legislators and financial institutions to increase funding for homeownership.
The organization's foundation has always been that, regardless of where you are born or what class you are born into, everyone has the right to live in a city where fair and equal opportunity for upward socioeconomic mobility and significant opportunities for their children are possible. Homeownership and having a place to call your own are at the heart of the American Dream. My family achieved it. NHS Brooklyn should continue to prove that, through their work on behalf of the community, the dream is never forgotten.