"Imagination. With empty lots and abandoned swaths of land, we had to imagine something else."
That is how the Rev. David Brawley, of St. Paul Community Baptist Church and East Brooklyn Congregations/Metro IAF, described the start of what has emerged as "the most consequential community development effort in the country."
Ted Koppel, with CBS Sunday Morning, interviewed Metro IAF leaders Rev. Brawley and Sarah Plowden of St. Paul, as well as affordable housing developer Kirk Goodrich to tell the story of how imagination and sustained institutional power resulted in a $1.5 Billion wealth-building equity strategy for first-time homeowners in low-income African-American and Latino neighborhoods in East Brooklyn, DC, Jersey City, Chicago and Baltimore.
It took imagination and power to secure commitments from Democratic Mayor Ed Koch for the cheap purchase of empty city lots and subsidies for building -- as well as from Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani to ensure there was enough money in the budget for the Spring Creek development.
Over 6,500 first-time homeowners have benefited from Nehemiah housing. Physical homes may be the foundation, but it is homeowners who have breathed new life into their communities, demonstrating the vitality of the American Dream.
In photos at right: Matilda Dyer from St. Paul's shares her story; affordable housing developer Kirk Goodrich explains why the Nehemiah strategy is the "most consequential community development effort in the country"; Matilda Dyer, describes how her initial application for home ownership was an 'act of faith'; and Sandra and Armando Martinez detail their journey to ownership of the home their call their "palace."
[Image Credit: CBS News Sunday Morning]
Nehemiah: Making the American Dream Possible for First-Time Homeowners, CBS News Sunday Morning
The American Dream: One Block Can Make All The Difference, National Public Radio
In a Sea of Foreclosures, an Island of Calm, New York Times
In Rochester Heights, a historically Black neighborhood in Southeast Raleigh, property taxes have more than doubled for some homeowners — their expenses rapidly increasing as gentrification takes hold.
Those same homeowners are now lobbying the Wake County Board of Commissioners to create a grant program that would offer relief from tax bills, similar to the ones recently put in place by Mecklenburg and Durham counties. ONE Wake...is calling for a program that offers payments to people who have owned their homes for at least 10 years and earn less than 80 percent of area median income. The program would cover any and all property taxes that exceed 2 percent of qualifying homeowners' annual income....
"When you look in Southeast Raleigh, [said Rev. Jemonde Taylor, the rector at Saint Ambrose Episcopal Church], these were areas where Black people were forced to live. Now that these areas are desirable, property taxes are increasing... We have to take history into account. Raleigh and Wake County purport equity. So the question is, what is the equitable thing to do?"
The day after ONE Wake's rally (which drew 100 One Wake leaders and residents), County Commissioners instructed the Manager to create a property tax assistance plan that more closely responds to ONE Wake's proposal. While there was limited detail about other available options, ONE Wake expressed concern that the formation of a Community Land Trust would not preserve home ownership and generational wealth.
[Photos: (top) Rev. Jemonde Taylor explains the proposed relief plan at ONE Wake Property Tax Rally, St. Ambrose Episcopal Church, credit: ONE Wake Facebook video; (right) ONE Wake leaders at Rally]
Wake County Commissioners Talk Property Tax Relief, INDY Week [pdf]
On December 23, 2021, Metro IAF affiliates Manhattan Together (MT) and South Bronx Churches (SBC) reached an agreement with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to extend robust legal protections against mold, leaks and other excess moisture to tenants in buildings that are part of NYCHA’s Permanent Affordability Commitment Together (PACT) program. Roughly 62,000 units will be converted to private management through PACT, a federal Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program.
These protections are part of the consent decree reached in the Metro IAF federal lawsuit, Baez v. NYCHA. The agreement includes:
- NYCHA requirement that managers address all open mold and excessive moisture repair requests within 60 days after they officially enter RAD/PACT. Following this period, private managers must clean up all mold and excessive moisture complaints within 30 days.
- Building managers must submit monthly reports identifying all unresolved mold complaints -- and a plan to resolve them -- to NYCHA, an independent data analyst and a special master who are already part of the court agreement. If the plan is inadequate, the Special Master can order stronger action.
- RAD/PACT tenants will regain their ability to register mold complaints with the independent mold and leak Ombudsman hired under the consent decree. This Ombudsman’s office has already compelled NYCHA to make almost 7,000 repairs. They will investigate every mold case in a RAD/PACT building that hasn’t been resolved by the required 30-day deadline.
This victory came from the hard work by leaders from MT, SBC and East Brooklyn Congregations, as well as the pro-bono legal team from Proskauer Rose, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice.
Metro IAF’s clergy, tenant and community leaders are working to ensure that tenants in RAD/PACT buildings exercise their rights and will work with NYCHA and developers to ensure the agreement will be executed.
[In photo: Bernard Smith, Rev. Bertram Bennett and Rep. Ritchie Torres speak at Metro IAF rally.]
In response to an extensive organizing campaign by VOICE Arlington, including testimony by 30 Serrano Apartment tenants and VOICE leaders at a December meeting, Arlington County officials are overhauling its oversight of affordable housing and building owner accountability.
County changes now include:
1) Increased inspections, starting with 1,200 units in six aging, multifamily properties subsidized by the county.
2) Changes to the County's Affordable Housing Investment Fund process that require companies seeking county financing to identify building needs and provide a plan for repairs.
3) Examination of how the County can better support tenants in affordable-housing units. This followed testimony by tenant leaders about years of problems with insects, mold, leaks and crime.
Together, these changes represent a “major body of work” for the County in 2022, according to Vice-Chair Katie Cristol.
In top photo, Rev. Ashley Goff of Arlington Presbyterian Church at GilliamPlace testifies at the Arlington County Board Meeting [Credit: Arlington County video]. Right photos feature dirty, moldy plumbing in Serrano Apartments [Credit: Elder Julio Basurto via ARL Now].
Over 100 Metro IAF public housing leaders and allies from the Melrose and Courtlandt houses and the surrounding community gathered to celebrate the installation of affordable community Wi-Fi at the Melrose houses. Thanks to Metro IAF’s partnership with Bloc Power and People’s Choice Communications, all 1,244 families who live in the Melrose and Courtlandt Houses can now get internet at no cost if they sign up for the Federal Emergency Broadband Benefit, as well as a laptop for only $11.
“Internet access is no longer a luxury, it's a right and a necessity,” said Fr. Sean McGillicuddy, Pastor of Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church and a leader with Metro IAF. “Hundreds of my parishioners live in the Melrose and Courtlandt houses, and I’m thrilled that we have been able to work with key partners like BlocPower, PCC, and Representative Torres to help them and their neighbors get access to high-quality internet they can afford.”
“When school was closed because of the pandemic, many children in our community couldn’t get to their classes because the internet was too expensive or the signal wasn’t good enough,” said Angela Medina, a Melrose resident working with Metro IAF, PCC, and BlocPower to reach out and educate her neighbors about the program. “I’m proud to help ensure no one ever has to go through that again, and I am excited about the new lower price for Internet access, which will help so many people to afford things like food, medicine and other necessities.”
Thanks to the work of Metro IAF and partners, the same service is available to an additional 400 families in other low-income and supportive housing buildings in the Bronx. Metro IAF is working to sign up everyone who is eligible, begin installation in two more New York City Housing Authority developments, and find other opportunities to expand this network to people living in other low and moderate-income housing.
[In photo from left: Angela Medina, Fr. Sean McGillicuddy, Rep. Ritchie Torres, Bernard Smith]
New York City Broadband Housing Initiative Gets First Completed Project, Broadband Breakfast [pdf]
Community-Owned WiFi Completed in Two Bronx NYCHA developments, Amsterdam News [pdf]
A Bigger and Stronger Network/“Una Red Más Grande y Más Fuerte, Bronx Free Press [pdf English] [pdf Español]
Wi-Fi Installed for Residents at 2 NYCHA Complexes in the Bronx, News 12 The Bronx
June 18, 2021, New Jersey Together organizer Boris Franklin spoke at the state’s first event commemorating Juneteenth held at Calvary Baptist Church in Paterson. At the event, he shared his story and the stories of those directly impacted by the criminal justice system that we’ve listened to in Jersey City & Morris County in recent years.
Gov. Murphy then signed into law the “Fair Chance in Housing Act” that prohibits landlords from asking about a person’s criminal record and limits their use of background checks. The law will be the strongest of its kind in the country.
If you haven’t read the New York Times article profiling Boris’s story and the legislation when the bill passed both houses of the legislature, take a few moments to read it now.
New Jersey Together testified about this bill in Trenton, sharing stories we had heard about the impact on individuals and families we had met who had struggled to access housing because of a past criminal record.
Leadership on this campaign came from Fair Share Housing Center, with strong support from organizations like the Reform Action Center NJ, the NAACP, and many others. Legislative leadership came from Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, Assemblywomen Shavonda Sumter, Senator Troy Singleton, Assemblywomen Angela McKnight & Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, as well as from Speaker Coughlin and Senate President Sweeney.
On September 19, the judge supervising Metro IAF NY’s mold focused federal court consent decree with NYCHA agreed to appoint our choice of an Ombudsperson, Cesar De Castro. Mr. De Castro will have the power to force NYCHA to properly fix mold and leaks hire independent contractors at NYCHA’s expense when they fail to do so. This will begin in the Jefferson Houses in East Harlem and rolling out citywide as soon as possible. Tenants will finally have an ally with court backed authority who can hold NYCHA accountable.
This came from years of work by Metro IAF’s public housing leaders to highlight the fact that most tenants still have seen no real improvement in mold remediation and the push for change. Most recently, on 9/13/19, we held a press conference with Council Member Ritchie Torres outside of the Federal Courthouse where we called for the appointment of the ombudsman and for NYCHA to immediately spend the $50 million in ventilation repair funds that we pushed them to allocate.Read more
Common Ground Wins Over $4 Million for Foreclosure Mitigation, Neighborhood Development in Milwaukee
Southeast Wisconsin Common Ground successfully negotiated over $4 million in housing re-investment from financial institutions whose foreclosures had devastated the Sherman Park neighborhood of Milwaukee.