Habitat for Humanity closes on 20 houses; Homes for low-income owners to be rebuilt throughout Southeast Queens

Queens Courier
by Michael Gannon
March 30, 2017

Habitat for Humanity New York City, which renovates rundown houses for purchase by low-income, first-time homeowners, has closed a deal with the New York City Housing Authority to purchase 20 properties in Southeast Queens.

Monday’s announcement marks the formal beginning of phase two of a multi-year commitment by the charity to boost home ownership in New York City.

Plans call for the rehabbing of seven homes in St. Albans, five in Jamaica, four in Springfield Gardens and one apiece in Cambria Heights, Hollis, South Richmond Hill and Queens Village. Three more will be rebuilt in Brooklyn.

“At Habitat NYC we are committed to providing affordable home ownership opportunities across the five boroughs,” Karen Haycox, CEO of Habitat for Humanity NYC, said in a prepared statement.

“We firmly believe that owning a home is a choice that should be available to all New York City families; all New Yorkers should have the opportunity to be permanently invested members within their communities, to build equity, and enjoy the stability that home ownership provides,” she added.

The first phase, running from 2013 to September 2016, rebuilt 12 homes in Southeast Queens and one in Staten Island.

In November 2013, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his family helped Habitat refurbish a home in Springfield Gardens in a joint effort with the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Foundation.

Carter put a deck on the back of a house on 112th Road.

A spokeswoman for Habitat said the funding for phase two already is in place and is not threatened under federal housing aid cuts reportedly being proposed by the Trump administration. NYCHA sold the properties for $1 apiece.

Habitat for Humanity combines volunteer work, donated money and materials to reclaim rundown buildings and turn them into modern homes with new plumbing, electrical systems, painting and roofs.

Each project has the additional benefit of taking an abandoned building that often is an eyesore and putting a new cared-for property in its place. Councilman Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) told the Chronicle via email that studies have shown that a blighted property can affect similar ones just 2,000 feet away by causing them to lose up to 28 percent of their value.

“These property revitalization efforts help not just those who move into the home but the entire community as well,” a spokesman for Miller said.

Those who buy the homes are required to put in sweat equity on multiple Habitat projects as one of the qualifications. Residents also are required to put 1 percent down and pay a mortgage with a 2 percent interest rate. Financing partners include Goldman Sachs and the Community Preservation Corp.

Miller and fellow Councilmen Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows), Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) and Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) were credited by the organization for their support of the program, particularly in obtaining tax abatements for the families.

Richards, in a statement, said the program is one of the keys to dealing with the city’s housing crisis.

“We cannot be a city of only renters and Habitat for Humanity New York City is a dedicated partner in ensuring more home ownership opportunities expand for those looking to purchase their first home,” Richards said.

Through their funding partnership, CPC and Goldman Sachs are providing a $3.45 million construction loan and an additional $1.71 million in grant funding.

“We are thrilled that we can support NYCHA’s efforts to convert vacant homes to home ownership opportunities for low-income families, and that the program will spur retail and job creation in the neighborhood,” said Margaret Anadu, head of the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group in the charity’s press release. “We’re confident that CPC will put our capital to best use to help more New Yorkers into homeownership.”

Additional support is being provided by the offices of Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who provided $1.2 million.

Design and construction partners include SLM Architecture, green consultants Steven Winter & Associates, and general contractors GKC Industries and HFH NYC GC LLC.