Melissa-Burch-affordable-housing

Melissa Burch, of Forest City Ratner, one of the development companies assisting with education residents on how to apply for affordable housing. Photo by Matthew Taub.

Amidst the borough’s housing crisis, proposed solutions have often left out an important element: Making sure eligible residents know how to apply for newly-constructed affordable units, and that residents are doing so correctly.

Various trivialities have been leading to denied or dismissed applications.  Some disqualifying hindrances include a white out on an application; two estranged partners claiming their child as a dependent; and an erroneous poor credit score.

However, one of the most significant missing links is that some residents aren’t aware of how to apply for housing, or what the eligibility requirements are.

On Tuesday at Borough Hall, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP), borough president and a host of elected officials and affordable housing advocates unveiled plans for a series of information and educational workshops for residents to improve access to more than 1,000 affordable housing units that will become available in the borough over the next few years.

“This issue is rarely discussed but increasingly a problem,” said Tucker Reed of the DBP. “Getting these new affordable housing units online is not enough. Eligible residents are too frequently disqualified due to minor administrative errors. Incredibly, and as a result, developers don’t even fill the ranks of the affordable housing units they’ve set aside.”

The partnering community organizations and developers said they hope their new initiative will expedite the application process for lower-income families, so they will be better positioned in housing lotteries. Organizing partners also intend on using the program to inform applicants on issues of managing credit, putting together relevant identification documents and following procedures to make timely rent payments in order to better qualify for housing lotteries.

City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo said she is excited by the upcoming educational workshops which grew out of an idea on the campaign trail.

“Residents wanted to know how they can participate in affordable housing coming to New York,” Cumbo said. “This is so that Brooklynites can stay in Brooklyn and benefit from its growth and prosperity.”

Rob Solano, executive director of Churches United For Fair Housing (CUFFH), emphasized how everyone from developers to community activists were united in the same mission.

“Whether you’re Brooklyn bred, or you’ve been here for just five years or 10 years, you’re the ones who [have] made Brooklyn what it is and made other people want to come here,” Solano said.

Solano explained how low-income residents are being pushed out of housing, sleeping on couches and the floors of relatives.

Melissa Burch, of Forest City Ratner, told the audience that the developer was the first to bring affordable units in state-financed new construction to Brooklyn, with 80 Dekalb Ave.  The 365-unit property provided some 73 affordable units when it went to market in 2009.

“We have 2,250 units set aside for low, moderate and middle income families,” Burch said. She mentioned Tower B2, which will be the world’s tallest and largest modular building, as an example–of 363 units, a full 50 percent, or 181 apartments, are being set aside for affordable housing. And a recent leasing agreement with partner Greenland USA will speed up construction, Burch said.

The first educational workshop for residents begins on Thursday, July 31st, at Brown Memorial Baptist Church. Seewww.cuffh.org.

 

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