Water Board Approves $10M Towards Credit for Affordable Housing

On Friday, May 20th, 2016, the New York City Water Board approved the lowest rate increase in 16 years, but the big news for affordable housing is that they also created the New Multi-Family Water Assistance Program which will provide a credit of $250 per apartment for affordable multifamily housing.

Those of you who follow our work know that UNHP has been a long-time advocate of water and sewer rate reform as the skyrocketing rates are a threat to keeping buildings for low-income tenants affordable and well-maintained.  

At UNHP we never like celebrating prematurely; the program is not up and running yet, but the fact that it is now in existence is great news. We celebrate that fact and we will celebrate more energetically when thousands of affordable housing units are in the program and gaining the benefits of this $250 per apartment credit.

In the 2015 UNHP Affordable Water for Affordable Housing report, we sampled 38 affordable housing projects with regulatory agreements in our community. The chart above shows that these types of buildings pay up to 13% of their operating budget towards water and sewer. If these buildings qualify for the new DEP program they would see a 25% reduction in water and sewer costs.
The announcement of the new Multi-Family Water Assistance Program is the pinnacle of the past few months of work towards our mission to create and preserve affordable housing and bring resources to our northwest Bronx community. Our continued work to collaborate with lenders, community groups, bank regulators, foundations, and HPD to identify and address distressed multifamily buildings in NYC is another highlight of our work towards our mission. 

In March, 27 lenders participated in the UNHP Financial Roundtable meeting to discuss the trends in Bronx demographics, as well as a citywide overview on distressed multifamily buildings and trends in sales. While the UNHP Building Indicator Project (BIP) showed that the number of distressed properties in NYC has only increased modestly over last year, UNHP expressed concerns are about the dramatic spike in the number of multifamily sales and the price per unit coupled with rising rents and declining incomes of Bronx tenants. In addition to 36 banks, the BIP is also shared with 42 community groups in NYC that use the data to understand neighborhood housing trends, identify buildings to organize and to provide information to tenant groups. UNHP offered a hands-on training in the Fordham Bedford Community Services Heiskell Enterprise Computer Lab on the uses of the database in community work and understanding of the data available in the BIP, as well as Microsoft Excel tips, tools, and techniques to be able to better utilize the information in the BIP database.

It was a packed house (photo left) at the UNHP Multifamily Financial Roundtable meeting held at the offices of Enterprise. Over 50 individuals representing 27 financial institutions participated in a presentation on Bronx demographic data, distressed multifamily buildings in NYC and the variety of NYC HPD preservation programs available to building owners. (photo right) Community groups participated in a hands-on training to better understand the BIP and how to manipulate data to bolster their work on housing.

In addition to our organizing and advocacy work to preserve affordable housing, UNHP works to bring needed resources to our community through the Northwest Bronx Resource Center. Thanks to our 77 volunteers, primarily from Manhattan College and Fordham University, and our partnerships with Ariva and Fordham Bedford Community Services, UNHP assisted over 1,300 low-income Bronx residents file their taxes for free and access on-site financial coaching, banking and benefits services. Enhanced volunteer efforts, business support for Bronx childcare providers, financial education workshops, increased services for senior citizens and assistance for homeowners and homebuyers were also a focus of the Resource Center over the past few months.

Blue T-Shirt wearing volunteers helped UNHP assist 1,368 low-income households file their taxes for free. 77 volunteers primarily from Manhattan College and Fordham University, contributed over 1,000 hours of service.  On-site services were well used by participants; 4 people filed for an ITIN, 53 were screened for benefits, 14 people printed their credit reports, 13 people met with the financial coach and 22 people opened free bank accounts with either TD Bank or Apple Bank for Savings.

In the light of the current affordable housing crisis, UNHP is proud to be able to effectively work to preserve the housing that is affordable and home to thousands of low-income families.  We are also grateful to our many partners that make our work possible. Looking ahead to the summer, UNHP plans to continue to advocate for affordable housing preservation, undertake research on Bronx demographic and housing data, and reach out to senior citizens who may qualify for a rent freeze.  

The charts above were shared at the Multifamily Assistance Center Roundtable meeting with lenders in March.  Over the past five years rents have continued to rise while the Bronx median income has declined. At the same time, the Bronx has experienced record sales prices and volume. These illustrate the affordable housing crisis and the continued cause for concern for low-income residents of the Bronx. 
Thank you again for your support and participation in our work. More photos are available on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Please follow our work through our blog, Views of the Northwest Bronx.
Copyright © 2016 University Neighborhood Housing Program, All rights reserved.

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