On Saturday, October 19, UNHP held its 3rd annual Bronxtober Fest—a daylong resource fair featuring information and services from 11 organizations as well as assistance from 29 volunteers from Fordham University and Manhattan College. 151 Bronxites attended the resource fair to get on-the-spot assistance and follow-up information. UNHP is grateful for the use of Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation’s Concourse House which allowed for enough space and access to technology to offer services and enrollment. Thanks to our student volunteers, 75 attendees signed up for Housing Connect, NYC’s online affordable housing lottery. Attendees had the opportunity to speak to legal representatives, bankers, counselors, advisers and program associates with public agencies and non-profit groups specializing in assistance to tenants, homeowners, small businesses, immigrants and first-time homebuyers.
The morning started off with a 10 am student volunteer training run by NWBRC Director Jumelia Abrahamson and UNHP’s new Fordham University IPED Fellow/Intern Anna Margarita. The 29 students from nearby Manhattan College and Fordham University went through a powerpoint with information on the NYC affordable housing lottery, known as Housing Connect. Once students were trained they worked with experienced staff to enroll attendees. There were also two NYC HPD-led bilingual Housing Connect workshops attended by 38 of the day’s participants. The workshops gave an overview of the process and Ishmael from HPD was able to answer questions from attendees in English and Spanish.
Participating Bronxtober Fest Groups and Services:
- UNHP Northwest Bronx Resource Center: Event Sponsor – Housing Connect enrollment on-site, reduced fare metro cards for seniors, schedule appointments for 1:1 financial coaching, group financial education workshops, homeowner assistance, eviction prevention, and the NYC Rent Freeze.
- NYC Department of Finance: The NYC Rent Freeze Program for seniors (62 and over) and people with disabilities and NYC homeowner tax discount programs
- NYC Housing Preservation and Development: Housing Connect Information table and two well- attended housing lottery workshops
- NYC Tenant Support Unit: Eviction Prevention Assistance for NYC Tenants – Determine eligibility for Rent Subsidies and One-Shot Deals, address landlord harassment, repair issues with your apartment, eviction issues and obtain a legal referral. NWBCCC: NYS Energy and Cost Saving Programs and Information
- Part of the Solution (POTS): SNAP, health insurance, food pantry, case management, employment, and immigration services.
- Ariva: Ready-to-Rent: Ready to Rent helps New Yorkers prepare to apply for affordable housing by providing free one-on-one financial counseling and assistance with affordable housing applications.
- Greenworkers Co-op: GWC serves immigrants and communities of color seeking to build, grow, and sustain worker-owned green businesses.
- Neighborhood Housing Services: Assistance and special programs for NYC first-time homeowners as well as programs for homeowners.
- Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union: Affordable accounts and information about financial services and homebuyer programs.
- NWBCCC: NYS energy and cost-saving programs, products and information
- Ridgewood Savings Bank: Bilingual staff from our local Bronx branch at 3445 Jerome Avenue provided Information about bank accounts and homebuyer programs.
The biggest draw for the UNHP event was the opportunity for attendees to enroll in Housing Connect. Thanks to the terrific level of volunteer participation as well as space availability, UNHP was able to set up 12 Housing Connect enrollment stations. Two counselors from Ariva’s Ready to Rent financial counseling service for tenants were on hand to print credit reports for enrollees and calculate household income. New building lotteries open once a building is close to completion and the income eligibility can range widely from property to property. Fortunately, there were two Housing Connect properties with lower-income eligibility available during the Bronxtober Fest. Creston Parkview, has a local Community Board preference and 1Br units for 2 people earning $22,000/ year. The Carolina, a Manhattan housing development with some Section 8 rental subsidy units was also within attendees’ income range.
As an HPD Housing Ambassador, UNHP is happy to provide this service, but it by no means addresses the affordable housing crisis for Bronx residents – many people do not earn enough income to qualify for the lotteries, chances of getting selected are low and people we’ve seen who get notified have very high lottery numbers. UNHP works to provide additional affordable housing services to help people remain housed and afford their rents. NYC Tenant Support Unit offers eviction prevention services twice a month at the NWBRC and UNHP assists seniors and people with disabilities freeze their rents via SCRIE and DRIE every week at the NWBRC. UNHP also works as part of our mission to create affordable housing and fight to preserve rent-stabilized multifamily buildings in the Bronx for the low-income families who live there now.
UNHP’s 2019 Bronxtober Fest was well-reviewed by attendees who completed an exit survey. 99% stated that they received the services that they were looking for at the event. Comments included: “I was already enrolled in Housing Connect, but I received good info on other resources.” and “The fair was good - I got some good information for my use.” Some attendees were homeless and some were on the verge of becoming homeless - there are no easy solutions for people facing homelessness. UNHP shared housing resources, enrolled people in the available housing lotteries and encouraged each person who is on the verge of losing their apartment to speak with NYC Tenants Support and shared resources to stay housed.
Thanks again to Fordham University Campus Ministry, Manhattan College Arches, and Campus Ministry Programs, our student volunteers, Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation, Concourse House, all our partners, UNHP staff, interns and volunteers and of course all who attended Bronxtober Resource Fest.