University Neighborhood Housing Program

Dear %1,


"How does this solve the problem?", someone asked as we described our work with distressed homeowners. The answer disappointed the questioner: "It doesn't." Hopefully, it will assist the homeowners who are seeking help and maybe it will open the door to some broader policy solutions somewhere down the line.

There are a lot of individuals in serious difficulty right now, whether it's with their finances or their living conditions.  While we are doing things that inform citywide policy discussions, we will keep working to assist people in the Bronx with their immediate problems.  Here are some of the ways we are working to help people right now:

Helping Homeowners
UNHP created the Homeowners Outreach Database (HOOD) in 2009 to identify owners of 1-4 family homes who are at-risk of foreclosure due to overdue tax and/or water and sewer charges. HOOD gives us us the opportunity to identify and assist at-risk homeowners prior to mortgage default notices when situations can deteriorate rapidly.

Local Homeowners meet with DEP staff regarding water bills at a UNHP-sponsored resource fair on September 16.This fall, UNHP used the HOOD to perform targeted mailings to distressed Bronx homeowners, inviting them to our most recent Homeowner Resource Fair held on September 16. City Councilman Fernando Cabrera collaborated with us on outreach and over 60 people representing 43 households attended the fair which focused particularly on water billing issues. 

DEP staff were able to review billing, payment plans and billing errors with 26 homeowners at the fair. DEP Deputy Commissioner Joseph Singleton attended the fair and spoke with homeowners. About 50 people received weatherization kits and applications from the Northwest Bronx Community and Coalition Clergy Coalition's Weatherization Assistance Program, while 22 homeowners met with a foreclosure prevention counselor from either the West Bronx Housing and Neighborhood Resource Center or the Parodneck Foundation. Of those, 14 followed up for additional foreclosure prevention help including loan modification requests.

In addition to this direct work, UNHP is providing subscriptions to the HOOD database to about 20 organizations around the city.  

Free Tax Preparation Assistance
Every year, low income neighborhoods lose millions of dollars in tax preparation fees and refund anticipation loan (RAL) interest. In the Bronx alone, almost $23 million went to tax preparation fees and interest on RAL returns in 2007. Much of this comes out of the Earned Income Tax Credit, one of the largest federal anti-poverty programs.

For the past three years we have worked to combat this predatory financial product by providing free tax preparation assistance for Bronx residents. While UNHP coordinates the program, provides staff, recruits volunteers, supervises their training and does outreach and scheduling of appointments, we have two intergral partners in Fordham Bedford Children's Services (FBCS) and Ariva. FBCS provides the computer lab and a good deal of staff support, while ARIVA, a financial education Bronx non-profit, provides the training and site supervision. Local residents get free tax preparation assistance from UNHP staff and volunteers including many college students.

The program also benefits from the help of students from Manhattan College and Fordham University (FU graduate student Josh Kyller pictured at right) who became IRS-certified Volunteer Income Tax Assistants (VITA). These students, many who study business and accounting, receive real world experience to complement their education while serving the communities surrounding their schools.

In addition to combatting predatory financial products, our free tax preparation work helps to address the larger affordability issue in our neighborhoods by ensuring local residents receive all of the returns that are due to them. We were able to help a total of 842 households with their tax returns in 2010, and we hope to exceed this number in 2011 by reaching more working families and seniors. We will be preparing tax returns on weekdays and Saturdays for a total of fourteen dates during the 2011 season. If you are interested in volunteering to help with the UNHP Free Bronx Tax Preparation Asisstance Program please contact Jumelia Abrahamson ( for more information and to enroll in the on-line training program.

Keeping apartments affordable and green
Rent comprises the largest chunk of most Bronx households' budgets. Weatherization work is performed on the 308 E 183 Street.Despite having some of the lowest rents in the City, Bronx residents are the most likely of all New Yorkers to spend at least half of their income on rent. The median household income in the Bronx has barely budged in the past decade, resulting in an inflation-adjusted 23% decline in purchasing power. The net result is that most Bronx families struggle to make ends meet and have the lowest amount of disposable income in the city. Ever-rising fuel, water and other operating costs make it difficult to maintain affordable rents while keeping buildings in good condition even for non-profit owners and managers who recycle profits back into their properties.

Thanks to good management from Dougert Management Corp. and grants from the NYS Weatherization Program, UNHP was able to renovate 10 expiring tax credit buildings and insure the long term affordability of the buildings. The tax credits that originally allowed for the gut renovation of these buildings had expired after 15 years and UNHP oversaw the ownership transfer from the limited partnerships to Reclaim HDFC, insuring the continued habitability and long-term affordability for the 273 low income households that live in the buildings. Due to increased weatherization funds from the federal stimulus, UNHP was able to utilize the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition's Weatherization Assistance Program to obtain grant funds to upgrade the properties using the latest green technology. A combination of weatherization funds and building reserves allowed for the installation of roofs and insulation, boilers, windows, energy efficient lighting, masonry and sidewalk repairs and energy star appliances.

New gas fired high efficiency steam and hot water boilers are installed at 2242 Valentine Ave.Pictured at right are the new gas fired high efficiency steam and hot water boilers that were installed in three of the buildings. The boilers are non-polluting as they emit only steam and water waste and do not require any chimney or additional venting. The estimated savings in these three buildings in the first year alone totals over $35,000, with the buildings' use down 25% compared to the year prior to installation. These boilers and the other green upgrades to these properties will help reduce operating costs, improve the apartments for tenants and help preserve affordable rents.

Helping homeowners remain in their homes, providing a professional alternative to predatory tax services and improving buildings for Bronx residents are some of the ways we are working to address the serious issues that face our neighborhoods. In this holiday season, we are keeping faith; even though we can't solve all of the problems facing our neigborhoods, we know that our work will help many of the people who are struggling. We do know that continuing the work is important. Thank you for your support of our affordable housing work and our work to assist Bronx residents.


Jim Buckley
Executive Director

University Neighborhood Housing Program
2751 Grand Concourse | Bronx NY 10468
Tel: 718-933-3101 | Fax: 718-933-3624 |