Organization Name: Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB)
Project Title: Preserving Affordable Co-ops
Project Location: Citywide
To help stabilize communities and revitalize neighborhoods, this project increases the number of thriving co-ops designed for low- and moderate-income households. Studies have shown that low-income homeownership leads to greater educational achievement, civic engagement, and financial stability for families. Shared-equity (a.k.a. limited-equity) co-ops in particular have a direct positive impact on building quality, from safety and security to resident camaraderie. Helping people create their own affordable co-ops, however, is not enough. Modest budgets can mean that co-ops struggle to afford capital improvements or to keep up with water and sewer bills. Effective, democratic board leadership can be tricky to master. Tax abatement applications are daunting. So residents need ongoing advocacy, training, technical assistance, and guidance to maintain–or regain–their buildings' financial and physical health, now and for the future.
With a four-pronged approach, UHAB’s Co-op Preservation team performs financial analyses and assessments for buildings and assists residents in developing individualized work plans to overcome challenges: 1) Vacancies are detrimental to a co-op’s bottom line. Finding dedicated, community-minded shareholders is key, but sometimes the loans they need are too small to interest banks. UHAB’s Homeownership Lending program assists income-eligible purchasers. 2) Maintaining the physical integrity of co-ops is essential to the well-being of current and future residents. We help co-ops obtain low-interest government and private loans for capital improvements and repairs. 3) This project enables co-ops to decrease operating costs and preserve our environment for the next generation with Green Housing Preservation Loans. 4) As one of the affordable housing groups in the Task Force on City Owned Property, we advocate for changes in policy related to preserving the city’s low-income co-ops.
Building by building, block by block, UHAB has helped residents revitalize affordable housing throughout the city. These efforts have uplifted and renewed neighborhoods for everyone, whether long-term low-income families that have fought landlord neglect and the surrounding drugs and crime or higher-income newcomers attracted to the now-transformed communities. In FY15 alone, we provided technical assistance to tenant associations and co-ops during 3,600 site visits and phone consultations and 1,500 in-office visits; saved five struggling co-ops from foreclosure by helping them secure $3.5 million in low-interest loans to cover overdue property taxes and water charges (for a total of $34 million for co-ops since 2002); and helped preserve a 15-unit co-op with $670,773 in 8A loans for capital improvements ($40 million overall since 2001). By taking the lead in reimagining their distressed buildings, residents help themselves and the next generation to a better future.
Since 1973, UHAB has been organizing low- and moderate-income tenants to fight poor living conditions in buildings neglected or abandoned by landlords. The residents UHAB serves are usually below 80% of Area Median Income. Most (about 90%) are African American and Latino and many are seniors who rely on Social Security and other forms of fixed income. We have helped form dozens of tenant associations and assisted in the creation and preservation of some 1,600 co-ops, providing homeownership opportunities for more than 30,000 households. By promoting self-help among residents, UHAB works to sustain this thriving affordable housing community. Our activities include advocacy, organizing, classroom and on-site training, direct technical assistance, development and sponsorship of new co-ops, development consulting, and special services to member co-ops, such as bookkeeping, insurance, legal advice, bulk fuel purchasing, insider tips via seminars and newsletters, and IT assistance.