July 1994 - September 1995
This University Neighborhood Housing Program annual report highlights our work during the fifteen months between July of 1994 and September 1995. We have expanded and moved forward with our mission to create, preserve and finance affordable housing. UNHP works to accomplish this mission through a combination of neighborhood and tenant organizing, technical assistance and community lending.
How We Got Started
University Neighborhood Housing Program is a collaborative two member corporation created by Fordham University and the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition,(NWBCCC). The main campus of Fordham University is located in the heart of the Northwest Bronx. Fordham University is an institution of higher education in the Jesuit tradition that is over 150 years old. The Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC) was founded in 1974 and is nationally recognized for its successful organizing efforts that have resulted in the many communities victories for and by the people of the Northwest Bronx.
University Neighborhood Housing Program was created in 1983 by Fordham University to assist in community based preservation activities. As the Northwest Bronx Coalition sought to expand funding opportunities for locally controlled buildings, it approached Fordham University for funding and Fordham suggested entering into partnership with the NWBronx community to create the two member corporation that UNHP has become today. University Neighborhood Housing Program quickly succeeded in obtaining lines of credits from banks and institutions to support affordable housing redevelopment.
What We Do
The loan fund that was created at the start of the University Neighborhood Housing Program continues today. The loan committee of University Neighborhood Housing Program lends market and below market funds to community development initiatives. University Neighborhood Housing Program supported the creation of affordable housing by financing the purchase of multi family buildings. The UNHP Community Ownership Project consists of 46 multi family buildings that with the financing of the UNHP Loan Fund became community controlled properties. The UNHP Loan Fund was used in conjunction with public and private money to purchase dilapidated, poorly managed buildings with organized tenant groups, rehabilitate the units and maintain affordable rents.
In addition to lending funds directly to community projects, University Neighborhood Housing Program provides technical assistance to tenant groups, affordable housing managers, not for profit housing companies and community organizations. UNHP has assisted groups by providing management and fiscal services, staff trainings, and direct intervention with specific buildings issues that affect affordability. For example, UNHP has reviewed the financial standing of properties, packaged rehabilitation loans, addressed specific problems, like confusing water bills or a high tax assessments and provided basic management and building repair workshops for housing managers and superintendents.
University Neighborhood also works to create, and preserve affordable housing through organizing. UNHP identifies and addresses through organizing emerging issues that impact the affordability of housing. UNHP addresses the broad issues that impact affordability, such as national housing policy as well as local issues, such as program policy changes. UNHP undertakes research on new issues and uses its newsletters and updates to disseminate important information and findings to community and tenant leaders, as well as the private and public institutions that work toward our shared goals.
University Neighborhood is unique among not for profits due to the combination of services and assistance that we provide. University Neighborhood combines research with organizing, and organizing with pragmatic assistance. This approach developed in response to the complex and varied resources needed to create and preserve housing affordability in a changing real estate market.
What We Have Been Doing Lately?
In the past fifteen months, University Neighborhood has expanded its efforts to create, preserve and finance affordable housing. These successful initiatives include providing new financing tools for affordable housing development, assisting community controlled housing efforts, undertaking issue orientated research and organizing to address the issues that will impact housing affordability.
Providing the capital
In addition to successfully managing our $450,000 community development loan fund, University Neighborhood attracted a new low interest investor and created a specialized loan fund.
The Partners for the Common Good provided us with a $75,000 low interest loan for UNHP Community Ownership Projects. University Neighborhood Housing Program made five loans with this funding that enhanced the affordability of these community controlled affordable housing projects.
We created and capitalized the University Neighborhood Green Loan Fund. The UNHP Green Loan Fund will provide low interest loans to affordable housing projects for conservation and security based upgrades. The Bankers Trust Foundation provided a $60,000 no interest loan for the fund as part of their working capital program. The Joyce Mertz Gilmore Foundation provided us with a $75,000 grant for the fund. The UNHP Green Loan Fund is set aside for affordable housing projects in the Northwest Bronx including; not for profit owned and/or managed buildings, community controlled buildings, tenant cooperatives, limited equity cooperatives and HDFC’s.
Aside from providing capital from the UNHP loan funds, we have also worked to provide assistance to affordable housing projects by packaging loans from other sources. New York City’s Participation Loan Program (PLP) was the primary source of low interest acquisition and renovation funds for the University Neighborhood’s Community Ownership Project. UNHP would enhance the PLP with its own funds or other low interest or grant moneys in order to make the project more affordable.
Recently, NYC’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development threatened to reduce the amount of low interest money in the Participation Loan Program. If the program is cut or the ratio of public to private funds reduced, the program will no longer remain affordable for the types of projects that University Neighborhood works with - specifically those needing an extensive moderate rehabilitation scope, a negotiated purchase price from the private sector or Freddie Mac and inhabited by low and moderate income tenants. UNHP recently obtained a commitment from the City that the program would not be changed at the present time, but given the city budget and the trend toward privatization, UNHP is seeking to develop other sources of acquisition and renovation funding for affordable community controlled housing projects.
University Neighborhood will look toward the use of low income housing tax credits to underwrite the acquisition and renovation of occupied housing. UNHP is presently seeking to package tax credits and develop investors for the credit on a deal by deal basis. UNHP has been working with two tenant associations in FREDDIE MAC mortgaged buildings that are interested in participating in UNHP’s Community Ownership Project. We are hoping to incorporate the low income tax credit into the loan package for these two buildings over the next year.
Assisting The Affordable Housing Initiative
University Neighborhood provided technical and organizing assistance to a number of community organizations, tenants groups and affordable housing providers. University Neighborhood works to address the gaps in training, information and staff capacity that affect community groups as they work to provide affordable housing.
University Neighborhood has been working with individual community controlled properties to obtain Section 8 certificates promised by the City. Processing of section 8 subsidies has been slow and has jeopardized the financial stability of many projects. UNHP has been having bi-monthly meetings with Section 8 staff and progress has been made on a number of projects and applications that will provide financial relief for both the tenant recipients and the building.
We expanded our services to non profits through increased staff assistance. UNHP fiscal staff worked to review the income and expense statements of affordable housing project portfolios and developed financial strategies for distressed properties.
We have been working with 15 multi-family buildings that have been having trouble deciphering the new bills issued by the Department of Environmental Protection for water and sewer fees. We have also been working with some buildings having a difficult time determining what remedial programs they are eligible for if they have already have a meter installed. UNHP met with DEP and resolved a number of problems and will monitor the progress of the buildings.
UNHP coordinated a September meeting with the Department of Finance to try to get a number of HDFC buildings re-assessed based on their particular financial situation, as opposed to the general real estate market. Meetings with Finance will continue throughout the fall to try to resolve individual building problems.
In June, University Neighborhood sponsored a six night training for housing managers and superintendents. Workshop attendees received training in building systems maintenance, trouble shooting, operating costs supervision and participated in on site visits. The workshop was given by the Apartment House Institute and co-sponsored by the Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation.
Researching The Issues, Organizing The Effort
The main focus of our research and organizing work has been on the issue of lead abatement. Although lead poisoning has been an issue for more than thirty years, it has only been in the past two years that consensus has been reached by regulatory agencies about its method of transmission.
Regulatory and health agencies have confirmed that lead problems are not eliminated by covering old paint with multiple layers of new paint. This confirmation has far reaching implications for the majority of housing in the NWBronx. According to the 1991 Housing Vacancy Report an average of 14% of all NWBronx rental units was defined as deficient. In the study, deficient was determined to include peeling and chipping paint, cracks in the ceiling and walls and holes in floors. These types of deficient conditions in apartments where lead paint was used will most likely have high levels of airborne lead. Also according to the 1991 Housing & Vacancy Study, Bronx Community Boards 5,7 and 8 have the highest density of pre-1947 buildings in the City of New York. 104,624 households out of 191,656 NWBronx households live in homes or apartments built prior to 1947. 27% of those households are households with children. Lead paint was not outlawed in New York City until 1960. Therefore one can assume that the bulk of this housing built prior to 1947 and up until 1960 will have had lead paint.
These new findings reinforce the need for safe rehabilitation and maintenance procedures in order to avoid inadvertent lead poisoning while providing building services or improvements. Lead can be released not only during moderate and gut rehabilitation of housing, but also during common every day maintenance such as repairing peeling paint, bathroom and kitchen repair involving scraping and minor demolition, and repair of plumbing problems.
There are currently 117 community controlled buildings in the NWBronx. The buildings are generally in good physical condition and have all undergone some kind of renovation. Because there are built prior to 1940, it can be assumed that lead is present somewhere below the current layers of paint. Anytime there is a leak or any type of problem or repair that disturbs the immediate surface of paint, there is a chance that lead is being exposed. Both a desire to provide the safest possible housing and changing regulations require community building managers to change their maintenance procedures. This will substantially increase the cost of rehabilitation and maintenance.
Despite the growing knowledge about lead in certain communities of interest, general awareness among tenants, managers and contractors in both community and privately controlled housing stock is limited. As a result, the risks in buildings and apartments are not being treated. Additionally, the constituency necessary to convince government to create necessary enforcement and funding programs is not developing, at a time when an organized effort would be most effective.
University Neighborhood Housing Program has worked extensively over the past year on the issue of lead abatement. UNHP was actively involved in the regulatory discussions regarding methods of lead abatement, manner of ingestion, ways to reduce the risk of lead poisonings and the impact on affordable housing through our participation on the Department of Housing and Urban Development Task Force on Lead Based Paint Hazard Reduction and Financing. The Task Force issued its report to Hud Secretary Cisneros and EPA Administrator Browner on July 11th, 1995. The report is complex and seeks to address the need for fundamental change in the manner that lead is abated. UNHP participated on the Task Force to ensure that new regulations take the economic impact of such regulations on affordable community controlled housing into consideration. Greater participation on the part of affordable housing providers and advocates will be needed if low interest funds and lead abatement grants are to be made available as part of the guidelines
In an effort to increase awareness on the lead abatement issue, University Neighborhood sponsored a seminar on Lead Abatement attended by non profits, contractors, insurance regulators, the Department of Health and professionals in the lead abatement field. The seminar outlined new methods of transmission of lead poisoning as well as safe maintenance techniques and precaution to be used during rehabilitation. The seminar was planned by UNHP’s Environmental Committee and speakers included Nick Farr from the National Center for Lead Safe Housing Dr. Andrew Goodman from the Department of Health and Harold Schultz from NYC Housing Preservation and Development.
UNHP staff has become certified in the EPA Model Lead Abatement Supervisor/ Contractor Program. This certification makes us qualified to provide trainings on lead abatement techniques.
We organized an environmental committee to work on the issue and have developed an agenda to reduce lead in residences known as Project ATTACK. UNHP has created guidelines for housing renovation and maintenance.
The UNHP environmental committee has also been addressing the issue of increasing water and sewer rates and their impact on housing affordability. University Neighborhood participates as a member of the steering committee for the New York Citywide Affordable Housing Coalition for Water/Sewer Reform. The Community Preservation Corporation, The Enterprise Foundation, and Chase Community Development Corporation are also members of the Water/Sewer Reform steering committee. UNHP worked to try to minimize any increase in rates this spring. UNHP working with the Affordable Housing Coalition for Water/Sewer Reform fought for and won the continuation for the transitional program available for multi family buildings with meters. Rate hikes are not the only water issues that will impact housing affordability. The proposed sale of the water system, the rate restructuring proposals, and a possible federal mandate to filter our water will all have cost implications for housing projects already struggling to keep up with water and sewer rates. University Neighborhood Housing Program has continued to organize on this issue and will track water policies as they are considered by the Water Board.
In addition to lead abatement, and water and sewer rates, we have been focusing on a number of emerging issues that will impact community controlled and affordable housing projects. Pending changes to the Community Reinvestment Act, large proposed cuts to the federal housing budget and possible changes in New York City tax lien policy are current issues that University Neighborhood has been following. We have used our newsletter, bulletin and updates to disseminate information on proposed legislative and policy changes to affordable housing providers, foundations, banks and public institutions.
Our plans for the Future
Over the next year, we plan to expand our efforts on many of the issues that we have been working on. On the issue of lead abatement, UNHP plans to develop community based trainings for parents, tenants, small contractors and housing managers and owners. We would like to follow up on the development of a job bank and economic development for small, locally based contractors in this new field of lead abatement work. We would like to further expand our green Loan Fund in order to provide low cost funds for lead abatement in community controlled housing projects.
Working closely with Fordham University, we would like to expand our research component and our college service program. We have planned a mortgage fair with the participation of financial institutions for current and prospective homeowners.
University Neighborhood Housing Program Recent Achievements
- Successfully managed a loan fund with over $450,000 and twenty three loans. University Neighborhood obtained $75,000 in low interest funding from the Partners for the Common Good in November of 1994. Other loan Participants include Apple Bank for Savings, Bankers Trust, Sisters of Charity, Chemical Bank, Bank of Ireland, Citywide Renewal, and the Society of the Divine Word.
- Capitalized the University Neighborhood Green Loan Fund with a three year commitment from The Bankers Trust Foundation and a $75,000 grant from the Joyce Mertz-Gilmore Foundation. The Green Loan Fund will provide very low interest loans to affordable housing projects for conservation, energy and security upgrades. To date UNHP has made three green loans to community projects, one for insulation of steam pipes and the other for energy saving exterior and public hall lighting.
- Provided valuable development and technical assistance to local non profit organizations. A UNHP staff person provided on site accounting and bookkeeping services to a NWBronx non profit. Assisted buildings with specific problems concerning, Section 8 certificate processing, confusing water and sewer bills, possible water rebate programs, and building assessments through meetings with city agencies and follow up.
- Expanded its work on lead abatement regulations and their impact on affordable housing. Developed an agenda to reduce lead in residences known as Project ATTACK. UNHP has created a draft protocol for housing renovation and maintenance.
- Participates as a member of the Department of Housing and Urban Development Task Force on Lead Based Paint Hazard Reduction and Financing. Two UNHP staff members are certified in the EPA Model Lead Abatement Supervisor/Contractor Training Program.
- Created a Community Ownership Manual in July of 1994. The manual outlines the steps towards community controlled ownership.
- Organized a Lead Abatement Seminar on December 2nd, 1994. The seminar was planned by UNHP’s Environmental Committee and was attended by affordable housing managers, contractors, tenant leaders, bankers, and a representative from the New York State Insurance Department. Speakers included Nick Farr from the National Center for Lead Safe Housing and Dr. Andrew Goodman from the Department of Health.
- Attends as a member of HUD’s Government Sponsored Enterprise Working Group.
- Continued our development assistance activities by processing tax credits for 240 East 175th Street, undertaking pre-development work for the gut renovation of six buildings on Webster and Ryer Avenues, and analyzing the feasibility of 263 East Tremont Avenue, 1911 Anthony Avenue, 2835 Bainbridge Avenue and 2454 Webb Avenue for community ownership.
- In June of 1995, we sponsored a six night training for housing managers and superintendents. The thirty workshop attendees received training in building systems maintenance, trouble shooting, and operating costs supervision.
- Expanded our informational outreach efforts by publishing our newsletter, Notes, six times a year and increasing our mailing list. In addition we introduced Footnotes, a bulletin aimed to a targeted audience of tenant and community leaders regarding housing issues that require immediate action.
Thank You For Your Interest In Our Work.
University Neighborhood looks back over the past 15 months with pride on what we have achieved. We believe that by working together on difficult issues, community groups, private institutions foundations and government, can create solutions to the problems that face our communities.
The staff and board of University Neighborhood Housing Program welcomes your ideas and comments.