September 27, 2022

The Northwest Bronx Resource Center Shines: Summer 2022

by UNHP

ummer of ‘22 had the Northwest Bronx Resource Center back on the streets; participating in resource fairs and summer gatherings. We also took advantage of nice days to engage with Bronx residents in front of our site offices. Fordham Bedford Community Services hosted a July 27th Summer Street Fair with the PAL ( top and bottom right) that brought City and nonprofit services to 196th Street as well as a climbing tower and activities for neighborhood children. Jose, (bottom left) the tenant advocate for NYC Tenant Support Unit worked with Bronx residents to help them remain housed - he worked both inside and outside our site office on West Tremont Avenue twice a month.
Summer of ‘22 had the Northwest Bronx Resource Center back on the streets participating in resource fairs and summer gatherings. We also took advantage of nice days to engage with Bronx residents in front of our site offices. Fordham Bedford Community Services hosted a July 27th Summer Street Fair with the PAL ( top and bottom right) that brought City and nonprofit services to 196th Street as well as a climbing tower and activities for neighborhood children. Jose, (bottom left) the tenant advocate for NYC Tenant Support Unit worked with Bronx residents to help them remain housed - he worked both inside and outside our site office on West Tremont Avenue twice a month.

UNHP took advantage of the warmer weather this summer to be outside offering a wide array of financial and housing services to Bronx residents. As the cooler weather is settling in and we are launching our Fall Fest lineup, we want to reflect back on the summer successes of the Northwest Bronx Resource Center (NWBRC) to bring financial and housing resources to our Bronx community. The NWBRC, UNHP’s direct service arm, hosted multiple events this summer, both virtually and in-person (glad to be back in-person!) for Bronx residents to find, improve and protect affordable housing options, while also providing financial inclusion and banking options opportunities. NWBRC summer events included outreach days for the Bronx People’s Federal Credit Union Mobile Branch, in-person assistance for seniors and people with disabilities to freeze their rent, and our Ask UNHP bilingual Zoom webinars.

Rent Freeze Fairs
Working with the NYC Department of Finance, UNHP hosted two Rent Freeze Fairs; one at Concourse House in conjunction with Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation and the other at our West Tremont office. UNHP works closely with Michael, the DOF advocate ( smiling bottom left) to connect seniors and people with disabilities with the City’s Rent Increase Exemption programs - it is an excellent way for people with limited incomes to make their existing apartments affordable. Jose from NYC Tenant Support participated in the West Tremont Rent Freeze day and provided tenant support and resources to those in attendance.

The UNHP NWBRC provides ongoing assistance to 91 senior citizens or people with disabilities to maintain and renew their NYC Rent Freeze also known as SCRIE or DRIE. This summer we hosted bilingual Rent Freeze specific events in collaboration with NYC Department of Finance (DOF) to provide single-stop renewal and application ease at two locations; Concourse House, in collaboration with Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation and at the NWBRC on West Tremont Avenue. The NYC Rent Freeze is a program available through the NYC Department of Finance for seniors (Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption, SCRIE) and disabled individuals (Disability Rent Increase Exemption, DRIE) to help make the existing apartments become more affordable to eligible groups with limited incomes. Rents are frozen (exempt from future rent increases) for eligible applicants and building owners are compensated for lost future increases with a tax exemption. UNHP works closely with the NYC Department of Finance (DOF) to process both new and rental applications for the Rent Freeze program. Thanks to the in-person help of our Department of Finance (DOF) advocate, Michael, the NWBRC was able to assist Bronx residents in person and by appointment with their SCRIE and DRIE applications. In addition to Rent Freeze assistance, in-person help was also available with NYC Tenant Services Unit and their range of eviction prevention services - including landlord harassment or inter-resident disputes, assistance with lack of repairs, and for those at risk of eviction - connection to legal assistance or rental vouchers. Jose from NYC’s Tenant Support Unit is regularly available in-person at the NWBRC site twice a month. The ability to bring DOF’s and TSU’s citywide service to the Bronx for in-person meetings is invaluable for ensuring applications were correctly and quickly processed, questions were answered, and concerns were heard.

Credit Union on Wheels
The Bronx People’s Credit Union Mobile branch has wheels and the NWBRC took advantage of its mobility to bring this great financial resource to a variety of northwest Bronx neighborhoods, including Fordham, Bedford park, and Morris Heights on the Grand Concourse, Webster, Tremont, and Davidson Avenues!

Financial stability and housing security are intertwined issues in the Bronx - where rising rents have outstripped incomes for many years. One way the NWBRC works to build financial stability is by sharing financial resources that are inclusive, low cost, and stabilizing. Our partnership with the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union and the Bronx Financial Access Coalition to bring a credit union to the Bronx is a summer highlight! The Bronx People’s Federal Credit Union mobile branch (soon to be a physical branch) used its wheels to host outreach and account opening days twice a month at UNHP-directed locations from West Tremont to Webster Avenue. The Bronx People’s CU Mobile Branch offers all the great products as its parent, the LES Peoples Credit Union including low-cost savings accounts, free checking accounts, ITIN accounts for immigrants, and a variety of personal and credit-building loans. UNHP has been connecting the mobile van to other organizations in different Bronx neighborhoods like Part of the Solution (POTS) in Bedford Park neighborhoods on Webster Avenue and the Davidson Community Center in the Morris Heights neighborhood to ensure access. Our POTS outreach day was a big success engaging over 50 POTS members as they came to the location for meals, services, and food pantry items. Thanks to the two UNHP summer events, The Bronx People’s CU gained 15 new members, 2 ITIN applications, 2 loan applications, and 8 appointments for UNHP housing and financial services. On July 19th, UNHP shared in celebrating the soon-to-be Bronx People’s Credit Union permanent Bronx branch with Bronx residents, our partners at the Bronx Financial Access Coalition, and Webster Bank, the primary CU sponsor. UNHP has helped to bring close to 50 new members to the credit Union since February of 2022. You can read more about our partners, the Bronx People’s Credit Union and this historic happening on our blog: UNHP and the Bronx Financial Access Coalition bring a Credit Union to the Bronx!

The summer of 2022 also marked the one-year anniversary of ASK UNHP, a monthly bilingual webinar that draws between 10 to 30 attendees per session, and lets participants ask questions directly to staff members about their pressing financial and housing issues. At first ASK UNHP was a way for UNHP to meet the increased demand for assistance of all kinds during the pandemic when in-person assistance was limited. However, ASK UNHP remains a valuable monthly offering as many attendees have similar questions and can offer advice to one another. This webinar is an opportunity for collaborative conversation between our staff and Bronx residents and it creates a central space where Bronx residents can voice their concerns, get knowledgeable answers to questions and build a common understanding of the local housing and financial environment.

Ask the Banker
The “Ask the Banker” webinar, attended by 5 local financial and banking institutions, provided a bilingual and comprehensive overview of available, local banking services on June 30th. Our “Check up and Check-in on Banking” event, hosted on June 9th, featured our banking and financial services survey and individual consultations about joining the Bronx People’s Federal Credit Union. In hosting these two events, UNHP is working towards building a more equitable, inclusive, and accessible financial services environment in the Bronx.

While ASK UNHP typically functions as an open forum, we have also run issue-specific Ask UNHP sessions with guest speakers and prepared information about relevant financial or housing issues such as the time-limited Covid rent relief. Our June 30th well-attended ASK the Banker session is another summer highlight for UNHP! Banking in the Bronx is a struggle for many residents who are faced with few local branches, the high cost of account maintenance, and inflexible account options. As a result, many people turn to alternative, high-cost, and often predatory, financial services such as payday loans, pawnshops, and check cashers. In an effort to reduce the use of predatory financial services and connect Bronxites with financial services that preserve and grow wealth, UNHP hosted “Ask the Banker ‘’ to bring attention to more convenient and supportive banking opportunities. At the event, Latina bilingual bankers from Apple Bank, Neighborhood Trust FCU, Ridgewood Savings Bank, Spring Bank, and the Lower East Side PFCU joined Jumelia Abrahamson and NWBRC staff virtually to discuss their individual services and answer questions in real-time with over 30 attendees. The NWBRC also created an online Bronx Banking Tool outlining the low-cost banking products at these five local banks and federal credit unions.

Fordham Fair
Working with Fordham University in Community, the Northwest Bronx Resource center engaged with other Bronx nonprofits to share resources at a well-attended community fair at Fordham Plaza on September 2nd.

Ask the Banker is a good example of the collaborative approach UNHP brings to our work - we seek to bring private, public and nonprofit resources to our underserved community. UNHP also regularly partners with local colleges for outreach, volunteers, and interns. UNHP participated in the September 2nd Fordham in Community’s “Back to School Festival.” Organized by Fordham University’s Center for Community Engaged Learning, local Bronx businesses and nonprofits joined together at Fordham Plaza for a giveaway and resource sharing event that was very well-attended by neighborhood residents.

Pierina Sanchez
UNHP’s meeting with City Council Housing Chair, Pierina Sanchez on June 21st was a great first step towards addressing the issues surrounding affordable housing and the Housing Connect portal for Bronx residents. Milagros, a Bronx AHORA member, has shared her story concerning the lack of affordable housing available to her and her family. As we move forward with our Bronx AHORA initiative, we hope that Milagros’ story and others will bring attention to the need for reform in providing safe, truly affordable multifamily rental housing that can be easily accessed by Bronx residents.

As we begin our Fall fest, a series of specialized virtual and in-person events, UNHP is gratified to continue work with a newly formed group of UNHP staff and NWBRC housing seekers named Bronx AHORA (Affordable Housing Opportunities Right Away) group. Following up with 70 of UNHP’s Housing Connect users, UNHP brought together frustrated Bronx housing seekers to discuss the experience of searching for affordable housing and using Housing Connect. The group met several times in English and Spanish, as well as bilingually, and was able to meet with Bronx Council member and Housing Chair Pierina Sanchez on June 21st. Bronx AHORA is seeking more deeply affordable units in newly constructed buildings and more ease of use and transparency with the online Housing Connect process. A large part of our outreach involves assisting residents in applying to Housing Connect 2.0, an online portal for new and preserved affordable housing units. However, our work with Housing Connect has revealed an alarmingly low supply of truly affordable units being built in our Bronx neighborhoods. Many new “affordable” Bronx developments are available for households with incomes of over $70,000 and offering few or no low-income units- this is in a community where median household incomes are $35,000 and many of the NWBRC users are on a fixed income. In response to this growing disparity in affordable development, we’ve brought together residents who are ready to share their stories and advocate for truly affordable units. Read more about Housing Connect, and the frustration experienced by UNHP and Bronx residents with the NYC affordable housing lottery here.

Thank you to our partners!


Up Next: UNHP Fall Fest!

Fall Fest Flyer
UNHP’s Fall Fest is taking place throughout October, November, and December featuring events where local experts will be available to provide information on housing and financial resources. Please consider joining us for our ASK UNHP webinar with the Tenant Support Unit on 10/27, The Credit Union Fest on 11/3, Financial Counseling on 11/2 and 11/16, as well as our Senior Housing Fair on 11/30. These events will cover a range of topics and issues such as tenant rights, financial resources, Ready to Rent, and more. Visit our calendar for more information!


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