Watch the full replay of the What We Do: UNHP& Mission by clicking on the above image or by watching it via this link to UNHP’s YouTube channel UNHP83.
On Thursday, September 23rd UNHP held the last in its mission-driven event series called What We Do: UNHP & Mission. The six What We Do events + the finale highlighted the ways we work to create and preserve affordable housing and bring resources to our Bronx community. Thanks to our many generous donors and sponsors it was also a successful fundraiser to help support our work.
The finale opened up with a welcome by Jim Buckley, UNHP’s Executive Director. Jim thanked all our sponsors and donors. The support is “very gratifying and we are deeply appreciative of the fact that the number of people who support our work has increased as the years have gone on.” Jim also acknowledged all those who have participated in our sessions and our forums these past several months as well as the UNHP staff, board, and volunteers that make our work possible. The idea behind the What We Do: UNHP & Mission was to highlight the core work of UNHP to create and preserve affordable housing and bring resources to our community by sharing our planned work as a community-based housing developer, Bronx-focused researcher, and direct service provider to Bronx residents. What We Do was a series of 7 events that shared our mission and a successful effort to raise funds for that work.
UNHP’s seven What We Do events were attended by 279 individuals from a range of affordable housing partners and community stakeholders including financial institutions, non-profit partners, community groups, English and Spanish speaking Bronx residents, affordable housing building operators, public agencies, national foundations & affordable housing players. Catherine Clarke, UNHP’s Director of Development, shared an overview of the events on our finale webinar. In addition to thanking our sponsors and donors, Cathy shared that “UNHP prides itself on being nimble, and responsive to emerging issues and needs in our Bronx community. The What We Do events highlighted the ways we work towards our mission but also show the ways that UNHP has been responding to the unfolding economic and health crisis brought about by the pandemic on all levels - from the disruption in the real estate market in NYC, our own scramble to stabilize the multifamily rental housing in our portfolio – to the personal toll that has been experienced by Bronx families and individuals.” Below are the seven What We Do events with links to their summary:
o 5/27/21 - Water and Sewer Seminar
o 6/21/21 - Posted Two “Housing Connect” Blogs
o 7/14/21 - Affordable Housing Building Operators Meeting
o 7/28/21 - Multifamily Lenders and BIP Meeting
o 8/10/21 & 8/12/21 - Spanish and English COVID Relief Programs for Community Members
o 8/30/21 & 8/31/21 - Two-Day Bronx Nonprofit and Financial Empowerment Exchange
o 9/23/21 – What We Do: UNHP & Mission Finale Sponsor Recognition & Webinar ( this post)
Next on the What We Do Webinar agenda were the UNHP Directors; Brendan Mitchell, Director of Real Estate, Jacob Udell, Director of Research and Data and Jumelia Abrahamson, Director of Programs shared the Why of What We Do by reflecting on the events that they hosted and led. In addition to the remarks summarized below, you can find additional takeaways from each Director here.
Brendan Mitchell oversees UNHP’s affordable housing portfolio which provides affordable rental housing to over 1000 low-income households. While UNHP does not manage our properties, we are actively engaged with maintenance and renovation projects, budgeting, and oversite to ensure that the properties provide long-term decent affordable housing. UNHP held two events that gathered other affordable housing building operators and stakeholders engaged in the ongoing day-to-day operations of regulated affordable multifamily buildings. The 5/27/21 Water and Sewer Seminar drew 40 participants and included lenders and national housing foundations as well as building operators. The 7/14/21 Building Operators Meeting attracted 31 individuals representing 12 multifamily building operations (all with Bronx properties in their portfolio) with over 15,000 units. As a mission-driven community housing developer UNHP is committed to providing decent affordable housing to the tenants that call our properties home. Brendan reminded Webinar participants that community affordable housing developers operate within strict inner and outwardly imposed guidelines.
“It’s important to remember that as many Building Projects took a financial hit throughout the pandemic, community-based owners and developers were faced with a unique responsibility, one which UNHP takes very seriously. It will never be an option for us to bring repairs to a halt or back burner necessary capital improvements, or emergency repairs because rent collections have dropped. We cannot defer the water bill until collections pick up or we will lose our flat-rate price and rebate credits. We cannot downgrade insurance coverage because premiums have gotten too high, or drastically increase our deductible amount because we do not plan on making any claims. The majority of buildings in community control have regulatory agreements, which require compliance with building standards as well as financial obligations including insurance premiums, water payments, and real estate taxes.”
Jacob Udell, UNHP’s Director of Research and Data presented next discussing multifamily lending, financial institutions, and the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). UNHP’s Building Indicator Project (BIP) Multifamily meetings began about 11 years ago – although these meetings have grown dramatically in terms of participation and agenda. At our 9/23 What We Do recap Jacob probed why “throughout UNHP’s history, we’ve always returned to finance and the role of lenders as a key part of ensuring good outcomes in the housing stock in the Bronx and citywide. And I think in the few years that I’ve been involved, I’ve really become convinced that that focus is just as important as ever.” Jacob’s remarks can be heard in full on the replay and provide a fuller context on his discussion of the role of banks, multifamily finance, and CRA in building conditions and affordability.
Jacob reflected “Bank reps often respond to the sorts of comments I’m making right now by saying “we can’t be responsible for everything”, and they’re right in many respects. And again, if we are correct about these next few years, we’re entering an environment that is going to be harder for both tenants and for owners and managers who are trying to do right by those tenants. How do we continue to anticipate what might happen, based on our understanding of the housing market and the housing stock, and think about research and policy goals that fit the current moment? How to give tenants and tenant associations stronger tools to fight against substandard conditions in particular? While again there are more questions than answers, UNHP believes in a process that includes all voices to solve complex issues.
Jumelia Abrahamson, UNHP’s Director of Programs, joined the webinar to share more of the “Why” around our work with Bronx residents with a focus on financial and housing stability. The NWBRC has become a trusted neighborhood resource since it was formalized about 10 years ago- during that time we have provided, with other non-profit partners, a range of free financial and housing services to Bronx individuals and families through UNHP’s Northwest Bronx Resource Center ( NWBRC). The NWBRC works with over 2,000 Bronx residents each year. Jumelia started out by reminding us all that longstanding disparities in the Bronx around health, wages, housing, income, and race have only grown during the pandemic. The NWBRC What We Do webinars brought together our non-profit partners and shared information and resources in English and Spanish with Bronx residents aimed at building financial stability and housing security in partnership with public and non-profit agencies.
“The basis of financial stability is secure housing – housing that is safe, sound, and affordable to the household that resides in it. The households we serve continue to deal with overcrowded apartments, high rent - and little to no disposable income, because even though many of our NWBRC users are “essential” workers, often the wages they make are not livable. This means that after paying rent - many households really struggle to cover other basic needs such as food and childcare.”
Jim returned to the screen to acknowledge all those that provide inspiration for our work and collaborate with UNHP in a variety of ways towards solutions. Jim, with more than 40 years in Bronx community work, 32 of those as the founding director of UNHP, draws inspiration for many of the people who joined the call today – some new to the work and some with more years than Jim. Inspiration comes from many sources – neighborhood people working to improve their lives, banks working with us to bring their resources to bear on community problems, our private housing managers working to assist tenants in innovative ways and ongoing energy and drive UNHP gets from its board staff, past, and present. The Bronx may be facing some of its toughest challenges right now, but UNHP remains hopeful that as we have always believed, problems can be addressed by people working together, identifying common ground, a willingness to fight when needed, and working together to make the right things happen. The Webinar concluded with a closing by UNHP Board member and Executive Director of Fordham Bedford Community Services, John Garcia. John has been our “closer’ for many a UNHP fundraiser and he is comfortable in the board room, beer hall, or a Zoom webinar. Tune in to the replay under the quote to hear John say it better than this paraphrased quote:
“What We Do is the name of this UNHP event – and it brings home the fact that the Bronx needs UNHP more than ever- but more than What We Do,it is also Why We Do It and for Whom We Do It - Bronx people – many without a voice about the issues that affect their lives and our community. There’s a catchphrase now Speak Truth to Power - well UNHP Talks Sense to Power. UNHP talks with the decision-makers to understand our point of view - grounded in the fact that we work day in and day out with the very people who are affected by their decisions and policies. I heard many words in the webinar; persistence, follow-up, responsiveness and nimble – these are the qualities that UNHP possesses. … On behalf of the community, UNHP serves - thank you to our sponsors and donors – we appreciate the support. Kudos UNHP!” #TalkSensetoPower