Tuesday, August 20, 2013
A stunning report by the Fair Housing Justice Center highlights a remarkable trend. Most of the affordable housing built in the US in the last decade perpetuates segregation. The fact is that the very programs designed to give people housing choice and break down these barriers may in fact, be responsible for perpetuating the situation.
Consider the findings:
- Most LIHTC affordable housing units (71%) were located in areas of high or extreme poverty.
- Most LIHTC affordable housing units (77%) were located in minority neighborhoods.
Some would argue that we build affordable housing in areas of poverty so people who live in those poverty areas can have some decent housing. True. But then how do they ever climb out of that neighborhood? That cycle?
If we go into minority neighborhoods and build attractive housing for the people who live there, what is the incentive for the minorities to look elsewhere for housing? And if they look elsewhere, what opportunities will they actually find?
Another insidious statistic reported:
- Nearly half of all LIHTC housing units in suburban areas were elderly units. 63% of the elderly units were located in low-poverty areas, while only 25% of the family units were located in these areas. Similarly, 74% of the suburban elderly units were developed in white or predominantly white areas, while only 31% of family units were located in these areas.
So if you’re old and white, your chances for decent affordable housing are far greater than if you are young and minority.
Properties like RUPCO’s Woodstock Commons work against these trends and can be one of the answers to the intractable problem. But it took an eight year fight to get it built – a fight conducted at great expense to the housing agency – a cost which would have prevented the construction if a less persistent developer had been at the table.
When our President suggests we start a dialogue about race in our country, we might want to start it with a discussion of where we live and why we live there! To read the full study, click here:
Thursday, November 22, 2012
In an October article, CNN Money reported that economists now believe that housing market is making a comeback faster than originally predicted and in spite of the hurricane that devastated the northeast region. This is contrary to the prior belief that visible recovery would not take place until later in the 2013 year.
There has already been a notable increase in housing prices on both new and existing homes. Not to mention even lower mortgage rates. David Crowe, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders reasons the increase to people simply regaining confidence in the market. And Keith Gumbinger, vice president of HSH.com mortgage informational site, is recommending those waiting for the right time to jump in now and not to expect lower prices. It seems that there has never been a better time to invest in a home.
For those wanting to buy a home, even if you think that you can’t, RUPCO offers first-time homebuyer classes which focus on navigating through the home purchase process in addition to home buyer financial education and credit counseling. While the classes provide valuable information for all homebuyers, attendance of these classes qualifies some eligible families to receive first-time homebuyer assistance grants.
Being an educated homebuyer gives you tools that can help prevent you from facing the same foreclosure crisis so many others have. RUPCO has a simple registration process for the Homebuyer Orientation and homebuyer classes. It just takes a call to Mary Ann Marrero at (845) 331-9860 x220 or an email email@example.com to pre-register.
But what does this mean to those that are still at the mercy of the recent economic crisis?
Are they being left behind and forgotten? – No. RUPCO and organizations like them are still very aware of the housing and financial needs of the communities they serve. Many individuals and families still require assistance in homeownership retention. Foreclosure counseling and prevention services as well as reverse mortgage counseling are still very much a necessity.
RUPCO launched the RUPCO Foreclosure Counseling website last year in order to provide a more straight forward resource for homeowners facing potential foreclosure. The website is a great starting place for anyone behind in their mortgage payments and not sure how to go about getting help. The website streamlines the application process by providing a check list and allowing you complete paperwork online before you meet with a counselor. Now you can spend more of your time getting help instead of applying for it.
If you want to know how RUPCO can help you just call: (845) 331-9860.
Thursday, November 8, 2012
In October, the Stuyvesant, was awarded the title of Residence of the Year by the Supportive Housing Network of New York (SHNNY). Every year SHNNY awards two outstanding supportive housing residences with this designation and RUPCO was proud to accept this honor as it represents the success of a model program and its commitment to both housing and historical preservation that begun more than 30 years ago. You can read the article here: www.shnny.org/2012-residences-of-the-year.
The Stuyvesant Hotel was built in 1910 and after a grand go of it, hit some hard times in the 80’s, and stood abandoned for over a decade before RUPCO acquired it in 1991. RUPCO embarked on a historically accurate reconstruction and restoration project that removed the blemish from uptown Kingston and revitalized the neighborhood.
RUPCO used period photography and historical records to mimic the original exterior down to the window awnings. There were some additions like the roof garden for the comfort of the residents and the placement of the community room so that they could enjoy the breathtaking views of the Catskills while still preserving the recent past. This is neither a new concept, nor an isolated one.
Communities and government have taken interest in historic preservation as a tool to resolve the growing affordable housing crisis for decades; first with an urban focus then encompassing a rural perspective. In 2002 the Bipartisan Millennial Housing Commission issued a report that stated:
U.S. housing policy must recognize that preservation is cheaper than new construction, that the rehabilitation and preservation of units returns the units to low-income families faster than new construction can provide such units, and that maintaining and renovating existing units combats blight and contributes to healthy communities.
The Stuyvesant project and now residence is not only a symbol of pride for RUPCO but ultimately represents the success of an organization finding resolution to the affordable housing needs and the historical preservation needs of their community. The Stuyvesant is a piece of “living history” and a successful model of a movement that continues to spread throughout the City of Kingston.
For more information about RUPCO, visit their website www.rupco.org
or call (845) 331-2140.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
RUPCO and Ulster Savings Bank have partnered together to sponsor a “Fast Track Education Saturday for First Time Homebuyers” on November 3 2012 from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. The seminar will be held at Ulster Savings Bank’s headquarters at 180 Schwenk Drive, Kingston. Seating is limited so registration is important, call (845) 338-6322, ext. 3471 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
The goal of this free informational seminar to provide details on the First Home Club program, as well as other lending strategies and options for first time homebuyers who are ready to purchase a home or will be within a short amount of time.
Some topics will be addressed at the seminar such as: how credit impacts your home purchasing power, what low interest fixed rate lending products are available for first time homebuyers, legal aspects of purchasing a home from a local real estate attorney, as well as grants available to first time homebuyers from the NYS Affordable Housing Corp. as well as the city of Kingston.
Why now? Well Why Not Now?
Now is a great time to start checking out the housing market and looking into buying your first home. Economists are regularly reporting about housing market recovery: housing prices are going up, interest rates are going down. So why the hesitation?
According to a Michael Sivy, a writer for the Time Business & Money, the combination of home prices, tax benefits, and mortgage interest rates, owning a home is cheaper than renting. In his article “Five Reasons Why is Could be the Opportunity of a Lifetime to buy a House”, Sivy writes about several other points to be taken into consideration about the recovering housing market.
For some, there is a trust issue with the housing market, for others, it is simply knowledge issue. Many may be wary of taking on a first time mortgage because they have watched many of their friends and family members loose what they worked so hard for years to achieve. Education and preparation are keys to sustainable homeownership. And there are many resources available to help make an educated decision when it comes to buying a house, or even preparing to buy one.
It Is Not Too Soon.
One would be surprised to see all the different ways you can prepare for homeownership. Just knowing the process can streamline things and alleviate a lot of stress. RUPCO helps from beginning to end with a comprehensive range of services to help achieve the dream of homeownership and sustain homeownership through pre- and post-purchase programs.
In the classes, you can learn some of the most essential aspects of homeownership including setting a savings goal, finding an affordable home, obtaining financing, getting home inspections, completing home maintenance and increasing savings through energy conservation just to name a few.
Homeownership is attainable for everyone and RUPCO is here to help first time homebuyers in Ulster County achieve it. If you are interested in attending RUPCO’s first time homebuyer classes, call Mary Ann Marrero at (845) 331-9860 x220 or email email@example.com. Classes are offered free of charge twice a month, every month, in Kingston.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
sus·tain·a·bil·i·ty [suh-stey-nuh-bil-i-tee] noun
1. the ability to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed.
The EPA states that sustainability is based upon the principle of dependency, directly or indirectly, on the natural environment. One author reaches for accountability by stating “For humans, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of responsibility…” Everyone has an idea of sustainability and the local community has come together to find the means to put it all into action.
Recently a committee was formed to comprehensively review the developing sustainability agenda of the Mid-Hudson Valley. The Mid-Hudson Sustainability Consortium received a grant from NYSERDA to study resource efficiency, waste, and management concerns with direct input from residents. The Mid-Hudson region is made up of seven counties: Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester.
Meetings have been held regularly to gain public insight. The website Engage Mid-Hudson was launched in early July and has had steady traffic with contributors sharing ideas and resource information from agriculture/food sheds to climate adaption, to transportation and land use.
The data collected will be drafted into a plan submitted to the State by the end of the year. The hope is to use some of the funds allocated in 2013 by Governor Cuomo. In his plan to improve economic development, Cuomo simplified the process communities used to apply for grants. The Consortium is following this approach of simplification hoping to move the entire region forward versus having a competitive and disjointed approach by each community.
Where do you weigh in on the plan? Do you see working together as a larger entity a benefit or a hindrance for the individual communities that make up Mid-Hudson Valley? Share your thoughts.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Recently, one family was surprised after reading information on the Housing Choice Voucher Program. They found that they fell within the income guidelines and qualified for application. This family of three, sharing a home with two roommates in the suburb of Kingston, considered themselves luckier than most and accepted their situation as “as good as it gets.” Unfortunately like many others in similar situations, they did not know they qualified for assistance.
Some view the Housing Choice Voucher as a mythical object available to a select few low income families. The truth is that a great many more people are financially eligible than what is imagined. Unfortunately misconceptions plague the social view of the program as it relates to some lower income groups. Few know the Housing Choice Voucher program currently serves more seniors and disabled clients than non-senior, non-disabled individuals and families.
There are multiple myths on both sides of participation about the Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8). Some renters, eligible and very much in need of help, are wary because they fear they will have to live in unsafe environments, dilapidated homes with uncooperative landlords or just fear the stigma associated with needing help from such a program.
Housing Choice means you choose where you live. Once approved, as long as you remain eligible, you continue to choose your location. Sometimes life happens; jobs change, schools change and you have to move. The Housing Choice Voucher goes with you as long as you remain eligible.
On the differing side of the issue, some landlords, familiar with only the horror stories about renters, are fearful of property destruction, extensive or tedious requirements to become Section 8 approved or worse, sit in wrongful judgment of Section 8 participants as a whole based upon the few.
The criteria that may require changes or upgrades to properties serve to also increase the value of that property. Tenants are held to the same standards as the landlords in ensuring the property is kept clean, safe, and livable. But honestly, there are more horror stories about renters not on Section 8 simply because most people aren’t on Section 8. There will always be “bad renters” regardless of their financial status.
So with all of those myths and judgments, how does one sort out the truth? Honestly, education. Be willing to be educated and in turn educate others. Both individuals and families struggle through the undeniable saga of politics and taxes sometimes without even looking at the facts. But those questioning should look at what the Housing Choice Voucher brings to both sides of the table.
The Housing Choice Voucher offers a level of stability not often afforded to those with low or restricted incomes. The ability to find a home in a neighborhood closer to a job or a school or medical care or transportation can remove a great deal of burden from a family’s day to day existence. The ability to afford that home in various circumstances is an even greater benefit.
The security of consistent income for the property owners is a benefit within itself. The list of voucher participants offers a low expense way of finding tenants to fill vacancies in shorter time periods. If a participant in the voucher program looses their income, which is a possibility in this still recovering economy, the voucher still provides its share of the rental income to the owners. This keeps an individual or family stable until they can pick themselves up again. It keeps a property owner stable because there is little to no loss of income.
There are obvious plus/plus benefits here. The support that the Housing Choice Voucher program offers spreads from individual to family to community on all economic levels. We simply have to be willing to look past the myth and find the facts; here is one place to start.
Thursday, August 23, 2012
There was a time when the purchase of a home called for many preparations, one of which was not the possibility of foreclosure. Today, the insecurity of the job market symbolically stands as the first domino threatening to collapse the foundation of stability that many are still striving to achieve. The recent economic crisis has left some wary of such long-term commitments like the purchase of a home. The foreclosure funding cuts for counseling and prevention have only added to social insecurities by weakening a much needed column of support; reducing hardworking examples of achievement, to jaded fiscally frightened individuals and families. The thought of owning one’s own home is rumored to have become the “impossible dream.” But nothing is impossible, only mathematically improbable…right now.
Economically, according to the Associated Press and Forbes Magazines, there is evidence of a positive climb of the housing market toward stability. However, the budding housing market recovery has done little to quell fears, especially for those in need of affordable housing. Even with reports from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) that 25% of metro U.S. markets are consistently showing improvement, fear still looms. Healthy stability is still a long time coming. But this is by no means reason to give up on the dream of owning a home.
While building a home may lean more toward the scale of financial improbability in this current market, the availability of various housing resources and options is paving the way for economic growth. Projects such as RUPCO’s repurposing of the Lace Factory in Kingston will bring 50-60 affordable artists housing units into the community. The opening of Greens County’s Housing Choice Voucher program will allow some lower income families to find safer, more stable home environments. And the much anticipated completion of Woodstock Commons, an Intergenerational Campus for seniors, working families, and artists will serve many purposes pushing toward the long term goals of economic recovery, growth and stability.
Some may ask how rentals can be helpful to those seeking to own homes. Simple. This is social and economic preparation. In a stable economic market, affordable rental housing allows individuals, families, and small business owners like working artists prepare for the next step toward “the dream.” Affordable housing allows those in the lower economic tiers to focus more on long-term financial stability. With financial education and affordable homeownership programs, the “impossible dream” can find its way into fruition.
Statistically it is shown that homeownership helps build communities. But not everyone is at that ready point. The different housing options and assistance programs offered by RUPCO help to ensure that those who are can move forward and those not yet there will get there.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
KOSCO, NYSE&G, Central Hudson, HeritagEnergy, Effron, Ace, Sunshine, O & R – no matter who you pay to heat you’re home, you’re probably paying too much. How many checks do you have to write before you admit you’re paying too much and do something about it?
It’s never been easier to reduce your monthly heating bills. Just pick up the phone and call 331-2140 x 260 and RUPCO’s Green Jobs/Green New York team will get you started!
1. Just saw a neat video of some guy who did this and he’s thrilled with the results. After you make your first phone call, a GJ/GNY team rep will help you pick a contractor to do your energy audit. It’s so cool. They come in with infrared lights and a giant blowing machine and show you where all the heat is escaping from your house. And for most people, this part is FREE!
2. After they figure out what to do to stop the heat loss, you pick a contractor, get an estimate, and get the work done. Maybe the insulation in your house has sunk and you need new insulation. Your basement may need sealing. Cracks get filled in, pipes get insulated, and of course, they look at your light bulbs!
3. Paying for the improvements? No problem. The pre-screened contractors are fair about pricing. And there are agencies like NYSERDA & RUPCO to help. In some cases, there are grants to do all or part of the work. And for the part you have to pay, there are low interest loans that get paid back from the money you’re saving on your energy bills.
Yup. It’s true. NYSERDA is offering a new, convenient option for financing energy-efficiency improvements on small homes. Participants in the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program may be able to get financing through NYSERDA’s On-Bill Recovery Loan Program.
This special low-rate program allows you to pay for energy efficiency improvements to your 1-4 family home through a charge on your monthly utility bill. The payments appear as a separate line item on your utility bill and are financed at a low 2.99% interest rate that may be tax deductible. Repayment amounts will be based on your projected energy savings. And get this. If you sell your property, the program is transferrable to the new owners!
So in 3 easy steps, you save money, get a more comfortable and safer home, and increase the value of your property. What’s stopping you?
Thursday, February 2, 2012
A couple of announcements about housing this week made housing advocates feel almost as warm inside as the unseasonably warm outside!
First up was an announcement from the Housing & Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan that new regulations are being implemented to prevent discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity. On one hand, the announcement seems a little late. Housing advocates in our area have long adhered to the basic principle and it almost seems silly that it must be announced and regulated.
That said, we realize there are many out there who still need to be told that this is unfair and illegal. HUD’s rule clarifies that otherwise eligible families may not be excluded because one or more members of the family may be an LGBT individual, have an LGBT relationship, or be perceived to be such an individual or in such relationship. Read it here:
Better late than never!
The second important announcement this week came out of Governor Cuomo’s office. He accelerated the implementation of a new program that will save New Yorker’s big bucks on their energy bills and create jobs for contractors at the same time.
On-Bill Recovery Financing enables qualifying homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient with no cash up front. Some improvements may also qualify for NYSERDA or utility incentives or rebates. The balance of the cost of the energy efficiency project can be financed and repaid through savings on energy bills. Check it out -
So cash-strapped New Yorker’s can get an energy audit, figure out the cost of improvements that will make the home more energy efficient, calculate how much they will save on their utility bills, and have the funding for the improvements deducted from those savings. A “pay-as-you-save” program. Got to give it to the Governor on this one. It really is brilliant.
RUPCO is implementing a major Green Jobs/Green New York program through out the Hudson Valley so following the details on their website is always a good idea.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Affordable housing is a problem everywhere – and for the same reasons it’s important in the Hudson Valley, it’s important on Long Island. Housing colleague Marianne Garvin makes a compelling case in an op-ed piece for Newsday. She could be speaking for the Hudson Valley as well. She says in part:
“While market-rate and luxury rental housing can be built without public dollars, housing at lower prices needs public subsidies to be both profitable for developers and affordable for tenants. The public sector can entice developers to build and manage affordable workforce housing by forming partnerships with the private sector. Offering federal tax credits, which are sold to private corporations such as financial institutions, brings in private capital as equity — not debt — thereby reducing the operating expenses of the development. Another way operating costs are lowered is by the public investment of low-interest loans.
In exchange for these public incentives, the developer’s profit is regulated by law and monitored by the IRS. This ensures that the rent is affordable to people earning less than 50 percent of Long Island’s median income of $107,000. To support local services, the rents cover an operating budget that includes property taxes.”
Check out the full op-ed piece in Newsday because it speaks to us as much as them! And while you’re at it, sign our housing petition on the home page to make your voice heard.