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PEP Oct. 2005
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Public Employee Press

Municipal Employees Housing Program

Opportunity knocks

Seminar keys members in on affordable housing

About 500 members attended the union’s Municipal Employees Housing Program seminar Sept. 14.


More than 500 members filled DC 37’s house Sept. 14 for a seminar on the union’s new Municipal Employees Housing Program. MEHP financial consultants began holding one-on-one interviews with members on Sept. 19.

“The response has been overwhelming, but we’re here to walk you through the home buying process and get you closer to achieving the American Dream,” said DC 37 Assistant Associate Director Henry Garrido, who organized the event.

What began in January with a letter from DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts to Mayor Mike Bloomberg explaining the pressing need for affordable housing for DC 37 members, whose employment is conditioned on city residency, has resulted in a unique and unprecedented housing preference program for city employees.

“We support Mayor Bloomberg because he thinks outside the box,” said Roberts, who explained that the program’s housing set-aside was not part of contract bargaining. Working with Housing Commissioner Shaun Donovan, DC 37 drew in experts to develop a program that would address the affordable housing issue for municipal employees. MEHP was formed so members could access affordable rental apartments or realize the dream of homeownership, Roberts said. “The point is not to rush into a home purchase, but to be prepared. That’s where this program comes in.”

Noemi Vega (l.) and Tracey Bamfield Lewis of NHS will prep DC 37 members for homebuying.

Partnership with HPD, NHS
MEHP’s partners, the city Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development Dept. and Neighborhood Housing Services, a nonprofit group, gave members information on counseling services, credit ratings, homeownership, available grants, low interest rehabilitation or renovation loans, predatory lending and more. The seminar included a question-and-answer session with the audience.

Rubin Wolf, director of Neighborhood Resources at HPD, explained the housing lottery process and how the 5 percent set-aside Roberts won for city employees will work. DC 37 members in certain jobs may have to obtain a letter of non-conflict of interest to qualify for the lottery. For more information about apartments available by lottery, call HPD at 212-863-5610, or 212-863-5620 in Spanish. Lotteries do not take place at DC 37, but at different community sites.

MEHP, which is located in Room 534 of DC 37 headquarters, is a one-stop service where, by scheduled appointment, DC 37 members can receive information and counseling about grants toward the purchase of a condominium, co-op apartment or a single to four-family home in designated neighborhoods throughout New York City.

The program will have two full-time financial counselors, Noemi Vega and Tracey Bamfield Lewis, from NHS. Introduced to participants Sept. 14, they will get members in better financial shape for homeownership and help qualified applicants obtain mortgage loans through one of 11 lenders including JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of New York, Bank of America, and HSBC.

DC 37 Executive Director
Lillian Roberts.

Assistant Associate Director
Henry Garrido.

Grants, loans and lotteries
The HPD’s HomeFirst Down Payment Assistance program offers forgivable grants of $10,000 or 6 percent of the purchase price, whichever is more, to qualified first time homebuyers.

HomeFirst and the HPD lottery have income requirements. In most cases, the maximum is 80 percent of an area’s median income or $50,250 for a family of four, and $35,000 for a single person.

MEHP counselors will walk qualified DC 37 members through the home buying and inspection process and MELS, the union’s legal services unit, will in most cases provide a lawyer to handle the contract and closing.

MEHP can even help members who are already in the process of buying a home. MEHP can expedite the process to see whether the buyer qualifies for grants or a better mortgage interest rate through a participating lender.

The union will hold seminars periodically, please check future issues of PEP or call MEHP at 212-815-1814. More information on MEHP is available online at www.dc37.net.

The new union program is designed to help members get housing they can afford. “We are not here to help people become rich landlords,” said HPD Director of Homeownership Assistance Mike Abel. “Know where to put your money. Cars depreciate. Rent the car, buy the house.”





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