May 2014 

University Neighborhood Housing Program (UNHP)

Taxes, Water Rates
and Affordable Housing 
UNHP's Spring 2014 Newsletter

If the first few months of 2014 are any predictors, this year is going to be a busy one. In addition to an arctic blast, the New Year brought us a new mayor, willing to open the doors of City Hall to new ideas on preserving affordable housing. UNHP welcomes the openness and responded by urging a continued emphasis on preservation through strong code enforcement, the creation of an expedited energy and water efficiency multi-family program, and an enhanced program for water conservation with a plumbing component that includes a revised water billing formula. 
As 2014 slowly warmed up, UNHP held a Multifamily Assistance Center roundtable meeting, tracked energy savings in our buildings, provided free tax preparation to over 1,400 low-income Bronx residents and continued our organizing and advocacy work to preserve affordable housing through the Building Indicator Project (BIP) and reformed water and sewer rates.

At 3.35%, the NYC Water Board approved its lowest rate increase since 2006 and reduced the rental payment – so why aren’t we overjoyed? Well, we are happy as this is a step in the right direction. The low rate and the Mayor's willingness to rebate $36 million of the Water Board's more than $200 million City rental payment shows an awareness of some of the inequities in the water rate setting formula. The problem is that water and sewer rates are already too high and are still rising. Even using a capped program like the Multifamily Conservation Program, the cost of water can be around 14% of operating costs rivaling the cost of heating. Rising operating costs leave less money for debt service and repairs. UNHP supports a rate freeze and a more equitable rate setting formula. UNHP urges our affordable housing partners to contact the City Council, submit comments to the Water Board and attend a hearing.

Information on rising sale prices
of Bronx multifamily properties, and the decline in distressed properties was shared with two dozen lenders at UNHP’s latest Multifamily Assistance Center roundtable meeting held at the Enterprise Offices in March.  In addition to UNHP’s presentation on the latest Building Indicator Project data, new HPD Commissioner Vicki Been presented a preview of the Mayor’s housing plan and encouraged feedback from the financial institutions and community groups in the room. Deputy Commissioner Vito Mustaciuolo was on hand to discuss the City’s violation procedures, enforcement programs as well as low-cost repair programs.  UNHP continues to work with banks, regulators, public agencies and community group around the issue of financially and physically distressed multifamily housing.  A decline in the number of distressed properties since 2010 is in part due to UNHP’s collaborative and data driven effort.

In addition to our work around affordable housing, UNHP also strives to bring needed resources to the northwest Bronx.  While the UNHP Free Tax Preparation Program in partnership with Ariva and Fordham Bedford Community Services was a resounding success this year; UNHP is proudest of our ability to work with our tax filers on other financial education issues during the tax day.  Working with our own staff and other community partners, UNHP was able to offer food stamps and other benefits screening on site, enroll 30 participants in health insurance, opened bank accounts for 39 people, provide credit reports and a brief credit counseling session to 44 participants, enrolled 19 people in our five session financial education class, scheduled financial coaching appointments for another 14 people, and 8 appointments for homebuyer counseling.  UNHP was also able to spend some informal interview time with people from our neighborhood who used the program; their many interesting life stories and struggles provide the background information that makes up the Bronx data detailed in our Nowhere to Go report.

UNHP sees an exciting spring ahead of us as we analyze the Mayor's Housing Plan, host our first Neighborhood Credit Resource Extravaganza 
out of the Northwest Bronx Resource Center, release our banking survey report, share our revamped Community Resource Guide and continue to work towards our mission.

We encourage you to read our blog, Views of the Northwest Bronx, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and even Tumblr, but most importantly continue to work with us to create and preserve affordable housing and bring needed resources to the Northwest Bronx.

Jim Buckley

Upcoming Events

UNHP Credit Extravaganza
Wednesday June 11th, 5:30-7:30 PM
Refuge House, 2715 Bainbridge Ave. Bronx, NY 10458

Attendees would get information on all things related to credit, and how to make it work for them! Receive individual Credit Reports, information on secure credit cards, and information on how credit can impact housing, jobs and retirement. 

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