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PEP Sept. 2008
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Public Employee Press

Municipal Employees Housing Program

Housing fair hits home run!


AFFORDABLE HOME SHOPPING AND NETWORKING: Members at the union’s Municipal Employees Housing Program fair on June 25 at DC 37 headquarters.


DC 37 Assistant Associate Director Henry Garrido, right, leads a seminar on homeownership at the union's MEHP housing fair, which 700 members and retirees attended on June 25.


Local 420’s Rowshonara Ahmed and her husband,
Mohammed, get information from a MELS staff member.

“Despite the housing bust, through MEHP our members are achieving their dreams as successful homeowners.”
— Lillian Roberts


DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts and Housing Committee Chair Peter Stein.


DC 37 made decent housing for retirees and active union members, who must meet residency requirements, a priority.


Members lined up to get credit reports, examine financial fitness and get
mortgage advice from local banks.


DC 37 Retiree Mary Champion was a panelist on the MEHP reverse mortgage workshop June 25.


Two Local 983 members inquire about home ownership.

By DIANE S. WILLIAMS

As sellers slashed home prices and mortgage investors went broke, more than 700 members and retirees attended DC 37’s Municipal Employees Housing Fair June 25 and participated in seminars on credit counseling, housing grants, foreclosure prevention, reverse mortgages, and much more.

“We have to thank DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts for having the insight and wisdom to address the need for more affordable housing in this city long before the rest caught on,” said DC 37 Housing Committee Chair Peter Stein.

In 2005 Roberts wrote a letter to the mayor about the housing crisis DC 37 members face because of the residency requirement. She and the mayor, HPD Commissioner Shaun Donovan, Neighborhood Housing Services and the Amalgamated Bank created the Municipal Employees Housing Program (MEHP), the first and most comprehensive labor-sponsored affordable housing initiative in the country. Assistant Associate Director Henry Garrido runs the program and organized the fair.

At booths with giveaways, candy and balloons, representatives from a dozen banks such as Amalgamated, Chase and HSBC, the event’s co-sponsors, explained the mortgage process. Participants got advice from realtors, counselors from the union’s Municipal Employees Legal Services and representatives of the city’s Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development and the Human Rights Commission, whose Local 154 members protect city homebuyers from predatory lenders. Savvy house hunters perused foreclosed properties at a booth sponsored by the federal Housing and Urban Development Dept. Union staff drew members’ names for door prizes, gift baskets and $100 Home Depot gift cards from co-sponsors and realtors.

MELS attorneys, Local 154 members and retiree Mary Champion led some of the workshops and seminars that explained the pitfalls of subprime loans, the more stringent lending qualifications for first-time homebuyers, the responsibilities of homeownership, the way credit scores are calculated and how to repair damaged credit. “We came to see if we can afford to buy,” said Pharmacy Tech Rowshonara Ahmed, of Local 420, who was with her husband. To date, MEHP has helped more than 8,000DC 37 members, hundreds have obtained $300 million in home loans and $1 million in first-time homebuyers’ grants, and more than 120 members have refinanced their home loans through the program to avoid foreclosure.

MEHP offers a wide range of services: mortgages, credit counseling and repair, foreclosure prevention, construction loans, refinancing, reverse mortgages, a 5 percent set-aside for apartment rentals offered through HPD lotteries, Section 8 vouchers, FirstHome grants of up to $24,000, and services for city workers and their families who are homeless. Union members can qualify for grants and mortgage assistance through MEHP to purchase condominiums, co-operative apartments and one- to four-family houses in the five boroughs and second homes outside the city.

“This housing program continues to help members meet the challenge of finding decent and affordable homes in one of the most expensive cities in the world,” said Ms. Roberts. “The program has exceeded our expectations and we’ve added more services to meet members’ needs. Despite the nationwide housing bust, our members are achieving their dreams and meeting with success as homeowners.”

Home sweet home
  
 Denise Fredericks of Local 1549 is a committed DC 37 Housing Committee member.
 

The Municipal Employees Housing Program is not just for would-be homeowners.

Ask Denise Fredericks, a Local 1549 member and New York Police Dept employee who lives in the Edenwald Houses in the Bronx. When ugly scaffolding surrounded her building for two years and made it an eyesore, Fredericks, a longtime resident, wanted it to come down.

“I got involved with the union’s Housing Committee,” said the New York City Housing Authority resident. “I wanted to find out my rights and how I could make the development I live in better.”

Like many DC 37 members and retirees, Fredericks resides in public housing. Over the lastdecade, NYCHA has cut services as the Bush administration chopped federal aid and the state and the city slashed funding. NYCHA is a major source ofaffordable housing for 408,000 low and moderate-income families, the disabled and seniors.

Although the capital project at her building had long been finished, the scaffolding remained until Fredericks involved DC 37. With information she learned at Housing Committee meetings, Fredericks approached Assistant Associate Director Henry Garrido, who called NYCHA. “Within days the scaffolding came down,” said Fredericks proudly. “Being part of DC 37 made a difference at Edenwald — for me and my neighbors.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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