Housing fair hits home run!
the housing bust, through MEHP our members are achieving their dreams as successful
DIANE S. WILLIAMS
As sellers slashed home prices and mortgage investors
went broke, more than 700 members and retirees attended DC 37s Municipal
Employees Housing Fair June 25 and participated in seminars on credit counseling,
housing grants, foreclosure prevention, reverse mortgages, and much more.
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.
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.
with giveaways, candy and balloons, representatives from a dozen banks such as
Amalgamated, Chase and HSBC, the events co-sponsors, explained the mortgage
process. Participants got advice from realtors, counselors from the unions
Municipal Employees Legal Services and representatives of the citys 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.
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.
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.
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 weve 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
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Fredericks of Local 1549 is a committed DC 37 Housing Committee member.|
Municipal Employees Housing Program is not just for would-be homeowners.
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 unions 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.
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.
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.