To Make the Search Easier, Arm Yourself with Information

May 30, 2003

By Ronald E. Roel; Compiled by Joe Catalano, a freelance writer,
and Ronald E. Roel

Some people still don’t like the term: affordable housing.

Affordable for whom? they ask. Every kind of housing is affordable to someone. They prefer calling it government-assisted or subsidized housing – or just low- to modest-priced homes.

Whatever the term, a consensus has emerged among residents, government officials and real estate experts that there is a critical lack of such housing – owner- occupied units and rentals – in our region.

It’s a daunting problem. For example, at Millenium Hills, a complex of 44
town house units in Melville, there have been more than 5,500 requests
for applications, according to Jim Morgo, president of the Long Island
Housing Partnership, which is handling the application process. Others
note that the ratio of applicants to openings is often more than 10 to 1 at many affordable developments.

Resistance to new affordable housing projects has diminished, most observers say, as residents recognize the importance of modest-priced housing for their children and growing businesses look for workers who
can afford to live in the area. Still, “many people just don’t know about
the resources” available for purchasing or renting affordable housing,
Morgo says.

Indeed, there are dozens of players assisting first-time buyers on the field
of housing dreams: nonprofit housing groups and community development organizations, counseling resources for home buyers, lenders, builders and government agencies.

So, in concluding this month’s four-part series on affordable housing, we
offer resources available to consumers – especially first-time buyers – in
the metropolitan region. It is a useful “starter list,” and perhaps it will help
spur additional awareness and synergy among various participants in the housing field.

We welcome suggestions for other resources to be included on the list and plan to update the information on Newsday’s real estate Web site, /business/real estate.

Nonprofit Housing Groups

Long Island Housing Partnership

The partnership, which includes more than 150 member organizations and businesses, has built more than 1,300 affordable units in 15 years, including more than 75 units now being developed in Suffolk and Nassau counties. It also offers counseling for first-time home buyers; other education and training, including the First Home Club, a 10-month program for new home buyers that results in matching down payment assistance grants. The partnership administers the Babylon Town and Nassau County down payment assistance programs, which give qualified buyers matching grants. It also administers the Employer Assisted Housing Program for workers in Nassau County, which gives buyers working for participating employers down payment assistance as well as a $7,000 grant for rehabbing a newly purchased home.

The partnership includes a wide array of members, from banks and the large secondary mortgage company, Fannie Mae, to dozens of businesses, the Long Island Association, local unions, Catholic Charities and the Long Island Council of Churches.

Upcoming programs include a First-Time Home Buyer Workshop, held in conjunction with Town of Babylon Supervisor Steven Bellone, on June 10 from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Open to public, but advance registration is required. Call 631-957-3101.

Community Development Corp. of Long Island
Centereach, 631-471-1215
Freeport, 516-867-7727

Offers education programs throughout the year, such as counseling for first-time buyers of any income; various home buyer education courses, including the First Home Club, where income eligible buyers can qualify for matching grants; Section 8 Home Ownership Program, which helps low-income families buy homes; money management courses; home maintenance training programs for homeowners; grants to income-eligible people for rehabilitating recently purchased homes.

Vice president Eileen Anderson said the group has been “changing the tone” of its courses to stress that many first-time buyers can benefit from homeowner education, even after they’ve made their purchase. “Education
is for everyone,” Anderson said. “It’s not just for those who say, ‘I have
a problem.'”

Community Housing Innovations Inc.
Patchogue (headquarters in White Plains)

Rehabilitates homes, such as those in Calverton Hills in Calverton, and provides grants to income-eligible buyers to help purchase them. The group has about $1 million in grant money available, mostly for rehab housing in Brookhaven Town, according to Ed Hernandez, director of Long Island programs. The group also provides first-time buyer counseling and education, including the First Home Club, a 10- to 30-month program that helps people save for a home and then matches their savings with a grant
of up to $5,000.

Upcoming programs include a first-time home-buying seminar June 17 at
7 p.m. at North Fork Bank in Patchogue. Advance registration is required. Call 631-475-6390, ext. 38.

Neighborhood Housing Services of New York City
Manhattan (offices in each of the four other boroughs)

The group offers housing counseling for first-time buyers; First Home Club, which helps first-time buyers save for a down payment and rewards them with a matching grant; home-maintenance training for homeowners; low-interest home improvement loans for homeowners who meet income eligibility.

Community Home Purchase Process Initiative
(Known as CHPPI, pronounced chip-ee)
516-867-8269 (Michelle DiBenedetto)
631-471-1215 (Eileen Anderson)

This consortium of lenders, housing groups and others offers consumers information about home-buying and financing on its Web site and through various programs held several times a year. Its Web site provides down payment and other mortgage-assistance programs for more than 20
local banks.

Upcoming programs include Long Island Home-Buying Expo at Citibank Park, home of the Long Island Ducks, in Central Islip on July 20 from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Includes panel discussions on credit and home purchasing (in English and Spanish) and more than 20 vendors displaying information on mortgages and other services.

The Campaign for Affordable Rental Housing

A coalition of more than 60 business and labor groups, housing advocates, the Long Island Council of Churches and government officials whose goal is to spur more affordable rentals in the Long Island area. The organization is working with county and town officials on “inclusionary zoning” plans to provide more rental units dispersed throughout the Island. A June 18 public presentation is scheduled to highlight rental needs of young college graduates as well as middle-income service workers such as police, firefighters and teachers.

“There’s a great momentum” to find ways to create more rental housing across the region, says Ed Hernandez of the Community Housing Innovation and co-chairman of the coalition.

Housing First!

A broad coalition of organizations, businesses, institutions and individuals whose aim is to advocate for affordable housing and promote a 10-year,
$10-billion plan to build and preserve 185,000 units of affordable housing.

Long Island Housing Services
Bohemia, 631-467-5111
Hempstead, 516-292-0400

This fair-housing organization focuses on eliminating of illegal housing discrimination practices and promoting affordable housing through advocacy and education programs. Executive director Michelle Santantonio recently announced the group’s annual fair housing conference June 20.

Habitat for Humanity

Provides low-cost housing and interest- free mortgages for moderate-income families willing to make a down payment of 300 hours of “sweat equity.” Volunteers also provide labor and sponsor cost of each house. Local chapters include:

Suffolk County/Middle Island

Nassau County/Manhasset

New York City/Brooklyn

Employer-Assisted Housing Programs

On Long Island, an employer-assisted housing program includes 18 public and private employers who participate in the Long Island Home Works Partnership in providing down payment grants.

The Suffolk County Office of Community Development handles Home
Works grants in Suffolk (631-853-5705). The Long Island Housing Partnership handles employees in Nassau County applying for Home Works grants (631-435- 4710). Program details are tentative for New York City’s Employer-Assisted Housing Program; for information, log on to Web sites or

Jamaica Housing Improvement Corp.

Services include pre- and post-purchase budget and credit counseling; counseling for tenants, first-time buyers, reverse mortgages and foreclosure prevention seminars throughout the year. Also makes low-interest home improvement loans to income-eligible households.

“We’re advocates and provide technical assistance to community residents,” said executive director Storm Russell. The next home ownership seminar is scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Queens Civil Court Building.

Community Development Groups

Many of these groups offer an array of education and counseling services
for first-time buyers and assist in creating affordable-housing projects.
Here are some:

Sustainable Long Island

This nonprofit “smart-growth” group aims to spur economic development, including affordable housing, in 35 to 40 “overlooked communities” Islandwide. The group recently has created an affiliate, the Long Island Fund for Sustainable Development, to provide financing and economic incentives for community revitalization projects, initially targeting 15 localities. The group hopes to offer $1.5 million in assistance by the beginning of next year, says Martin Cantor, the fund’s vice president (631-491-1388).

Wyandanch Community Development Corp.

Offers counseling seminars for first-time buyers throughout the year. It also rehabilitates and sells a limited number of homes and is in the early planning stages for building new affordable housing.

Rockaway Development & Revitalization Corp.
Far Rockaway

Services include counseling and seminars for first-time buyers. First Home Club helps income-eligible first-time buyers save for a down payment and matches it with grant money. The real estate development program in the next year plans to begin rehabilitating and selling homes and building and selling new affordable units.

Roslyn Savings Bank

Roslyn is among several local banks that has long-established partnerships with developers, government agencies such as the New York City Housing and Preservation Department, and nonprofit groups such as the Long Island Housing Partnership and Community Housing Innovations to finance the construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing on the Island and in the city. Last year, Roslyn provided more than $200 million in construction and mortgage financing for such programs.

These are “complex, multifaceted efforts,” said Dan Martin, vice president of community development lending. “Supply [of land] is a problem.”

Government Agencies

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Manhattan (regional headquarters)
800-217-6970 (to get location of first-time-buyer housing counselors in New York City and Long Island) (Type in “New York” in the space asking for “state.” Information is in English and Spanish.)

HUD backs mortgages made through approved lenders; sells foreclosed homes; hosts seminars; funds counseling for first-time buyers done through various New York City and Long Island housing agencies; and offers literature on home buying. Its Web site is filled with information including upcoming programs, foreclosed homes for sale and the location of HUD lenders, local housing counselors and affordable housing groups.

Designating June as Home Ownership Month, HUD is sponsoring 25 events throughout the Island and city in conjunction with local housing groups. Check HUD’s Web site for details.

New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal
Manhattan (regional office)

The agency administers a variety of programs to promote affordable housing and community development statewide. Its Web site includes a section for consumers, “Finding Affordable Housing,” which has an Affordable Housing Directory allowing people to search for such housing anywhere in the state.

The state’s Affordable Housing Corp. awards millions of dollars annually to local housing groups and government agencies for home-buying assistance as well as construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing.

Nassau County Department of Economic Development

The department offers down payment and closing-cost assistance to eligible first-time home buyers through partnerships with banks (grants up to $5,000) as well as through HUD’s Home Investment Partnerships or HOME, program (grants up to $10,000).

The county also administers HUD’s Section 8 program, including counseling to participants in the Housing Choice Voucher Program. The Housing Choice vouchers now include contracts with unit owners, in addition to tenants.

The housing office will soon be implementing financial education programs for high school students and recently established a Task Force on Young Adult Housing, chaired by Garden City public relations executive Howard Blankman.

Suffolk County Office of Community Development

The office administers a down payment assistance program for eligible first-time buyers (up to $10,000) for residents other than those in Islip or Babylon Towns, which have their own programs. The office also oversees an employer assisted housing program as a participant in the Long Island Home Works Partnership. It also helps create modest-priced housing in partnerships with nonprofits and various towns, which have individual housing authorities and community development offices, said community development director
Joseph Sanseverino.

The county’s Affordable Housing Opportunities Program helps acquire vacant or deteriorated properties for transfer to towns or villages who auction them to eligible first-time buyers, said director Marian Zucker (631-853-6420).

New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development

The department is the nation’s largest municipal developer of affordable housing. Over the next few years, the department plans to spend almost $1.5 billion to support housing preservation and community development activities. It works with governmental, community, nonprofit and for-profit partners to strengthen neighborhoods and increase the availability of affordable housing.

The department’s Web site has extensive listings of affordable homes
and apartments.

Copyright © 2003, Newsday, Inc.