March 21, 2016

UNHP “Senior Days” Provide Tax Preparation and Homeowner Assistance


March Madness at UNHP means a busy month-long schedule of free financial services for senior citizens, including four mobile free tax preparation days at low-income senior residences and a Homeowner Resource Fair with foreclosure prevention services for at-risk older homeowners in our community.

Working with our Resource Center partner for foreclosure prevention assistance, The Parodneck Foundation, UNHP sponsored a March 15th Senior Citizen Homeowner Resource Fair that offered an opportunity for homeowners to meet with attorneys, counselors, and a financial coach.  The Fair was part of The Senior Citizen Initiative and provided home energy assessments, credit report analysis, and special low cost renovation and loan programs for senior homeowners. The Parodneck Foundation provides regular assistance to both homeowners and prospective home-buyers out of the Northwest Bronx Resource Center (NWBXRC).

Ten senior homeowners attended the Resource Fair on March 15 at Serviam Gardens and received services from The Parodneck Foundation, The Financial Clinic, UNHP, Sustainable South Bronx and the NWBCCC Weatherization Project. Six seniors printed their credit reports, two scheduled appointments for financial coaching at the NWBXRC, 2 homeowners applied for property tax exemptions (STAR) and 3 homeowners have been approved for a free home energy assessment. One senior applied for the Senior Citizen Housing Assistance Program (SCHAP), a low-cost loan product from The Parodneck Foundation. Attendees also made follow- up appointments for legal and foreclosure prevention assistance through the Parodneck Foundation.

UNHP assists many seniors during our regular tax days at Refuge House and at special mobile tax days held at senior citizen residences.

UNHP also worked with our partners, Fordham Bedford Community Services and Ariva to provide on-site free tax days at four community-developed senior HUD 202 affordable housing complexes; UNHP’s Rose Hill Apartments, Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation’s Serviam Gardens, Edison Arms and Msgr, Fiorentino Apartments. In addition to being able to file their taxes for free in their own buildings, seniors were able to open bank accounts, obtain their credit reports and schedule an appointment with the Northwest Bronx Resource Center. A total of 155 seniors were assisted during our ‘senior days” and many more were helped during our regular tax days at Refuge House.

Serviam Gardens is developed, owned and managed by Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation and offers affordable housing, on-site services and a beautiful living environment to 300 low-income senior citizens. Working with Ariva and Fordham Bedford Community Services, UNHP was able to assist 57 senior households file their for free.

TD Bank was on hand for our senior mobile tax days to offer free and low cost banking products to residents. UNHP also offered free credit reports and appointments with the UNHP Financial Clinic coach or Seedco Community Healthcare Advocate.

Volunteers from Fordham University showed up to assist over 50 of their neighbors file their taxes for free. Rose Hill Apartments are located on the edge of Fordham University’s beautiful Bronx campus. The project was originally developed by Fordham University in 1985 and UNHP, as owner and general partner, oversaw the refinancing and renovation of this 119 unit low income senior housing project in 2008.

Jumelia, UNHP’s Resource Center Director and William of Fordham Bedford Community Services provide expert tax preparation services. Senior UNHP tax staff have over 5 years tax experience and are certified by the IRS as Quality Tax Reviewers. These senior mobile days would not be possible without the assistance of the social service staff from FBCS and RoseHill Housing Management Corporation. Social services staff coordinates the appointments and works with the seniors during the tax day.

The best part of the senior tax days are the people we meet. Here are two of our senior stories.Carmen and Eladio have been married for 60 years and are the proud parents and grandparents of three grown daughters and one son, five granddaughters and two great-grandchildren. Their grandchildren have been a blessing “Las nietas me reviven.” They revived us. Carmen and Eladio live in a co-op at the Amalgamated Houses and as members of the Amalgamated Credit Union already understand the value of low-cost financial services. Eladio is a Korean War veteran and was stationed in Cuba and Panama in the service. They are both retired and receive pensions and social security. Their tax return was very straightforward, but last year H&R Block charged them $165 to file their taxes. This year they called 311 to find places where they could file their taxes for free and UNHP was able to schedule their appointment at Edison Arms senior housing as it is fully handicap accessible. They both had a good experience with UNHP. Eladio showed us photos of his grandchildren and charmed all the tax preparers.They said that they will be back next year!

Keiko is one of the many returning tax clients that come to Refuge House to get their taxes filed for free. Keiko first learned about the program through the Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation newsletter, The Neighbor/Vecino. Keiko lives in a FBHC building and has been a tax client for at least 4 years. She traveled from Japan on a visitor’s visa in 1970 to see New York City and fell in love with the United States. She returned to Japan, obtained a green card and returned to the US to work for a US branch of a Japanese bank for 15 years. She is retired and lives on social security. She is a sincere practicing Buddhist and is grateful for the opportunity to live in affordable housing in the Bronx and get attentive professional assistance with her taxes from UNHP.