Public Employee Press
Municipal Employees Housing Program
A home of their own
After 35 years in public housing, L. 371 member Shalanda
Cunningham-James bought her first home through DC 37s MEHP.
At the closing Nov.29, her family became
the first to gain title to their home through MEHP.
DC 37 helps Shalanda Cunningham-James and her family
move from public housing to home ownership
By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
Shalanda Cunningham-James is at home surrounded by boxes. She is on an
adrenalin rush as moving day fast approaches. She and her husband closed
a deal on a one-family brick house in the North Bronx Nov. 29 with help
from the DC 37 Municipal Employees Housing Program.
As she sorts and packs things collected over a lifetime in the same apartment
she grew up in, Shalanda reflects on how far she has come. Until now,
she has always lived in the Bronx River Houses, a public housing project
in the East Bronx.
My husband and I werent really looking for a house, but one
came up next door to my husbands sister, said Cunningham-James,
a Caseworker in SSEU Local 371. The owner agreed to sell us the
house, but the neighborhood mortgage company was like vultures. They wanted
$10,000 in extra fees. They said we had to use their lawyers.
Cummingham-James read about DC 37s new housing program in PEP. She
called and arranged an appointment with MEHP manager and counselor Noemi
MEHP, DC 37s innovative housing program, provides members with grants
and assistance in obtaining affordable rental apartments, condos, coops
and houses in New York City.
The program took its first step toward creation a year ago, when DC 37
Executive Director Lillian Roberts wrote Mayor Bloomberg asking that more
affordable housing be made available to DC 37 members. She came back with
a 5 percent affordable housing preference for all city workers. What Roberts
initiated has grown into a unique partnership of labor, the city Housing
Preservation and Development Dept. and Neighborhood Housing Services,
a nonprofit homeownership organization.
Now DC 37 members get a better chance at affordable housing and
homeownership. MEHP provides one-stop service with counseling, credit
repair, first-time homebuyers grants and mortgages through 10 lenders,
I never thought it would happen that quick. But with DC 37s
help, we got our mortgage through Wells Fargo and buying our first home
was smooth sailing, said Cunningham-James.
At the closing Nov. 29, her family became the first to gain title to their
home through MEHP. Many other union families will be reaching that milestone
in the coming weeks and months.
In a few weeks, Shalanda and her retired husband will welcome their first
child. The three-bedroom home will be a good fit for her growing family,
which includes three young cousins in her care, Tateana, Unique and James.
The house needed no major work, said Cunningham-James.
I am happy. I lived in the projects for 35 years. Owning a house
was one of our goals as a married couple.
expands to cover more members
In its ongoing effort to meet
DC 37 members need for affordable housing in New York City,
the Municipal Employees Housing Program has expanded to include
more city employees and more housing opportunities in more neighborhoods
throughout the city.
l The HomeFirst Down Payment grant has eliminated its ZIP code
requirements. Recipients may use the grant toward the purchase
of a home in any borough.
l HUDs Officer/Teacher Next Door Program has been expanded
to include Emergency Medical Technicians. Under this program,
EMTs can purchase HUD homes at a 50 percent discount from the
list price. For more information, call the U.S. Dept. of Housing
and Urban Development at 212-264-8000.
l The Off-Track Betting Corp. has been added to the list of agencies
whose employees are now eligible for the 5 percent preference
for Housing Preservation and Development rental apartments, which
are available through lottery.
l Any DC 37 member who received an application to the federal
Section 8 lotteries from their respective local should refer their
inquiries to the New York City Housing Authority Section 8 Program.
Additionally, any DC 37 member who has found or has entered into
a contract to purchase a house, condo or co-op should call 212-815-1814
and ask to speak to a MEHP counselor. The Municipal Employees
Housing Program may help DC 37 members get a better mortgage rate
or, if qualified, obtain a HomeFirst grant of up to $24,000 to
be used toward down payment or closing costs.