FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, September 21, 2017
CONTACT: Juliet Pierre-Antoine, 212-863-5682
DEPARTMENTS OF HOUSING PRESERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS ANNOUNCE RENEWAL OF “READY TO RENT” PROGRAM
City Program Receives New Round of City Council Funding After Demonstrated Success in Helping New Yorkers Apply to Affordable Housing Lotteries
NEW YORK, NY – New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer and New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Lorelei Salas announce the renewal of “Ready to Rent,” a program providing New Yorkers free one-on-one financial counseling and assistance with affordable housing applications. The City Council-funded Ready to Rent: Financial Counseling for Affordable Housing program was created from an earlier pilot program conducted by HPD and DCA with the support of Citi Foundation and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City.
The program, which is run in partnership with the financial counseling provider Ariva, was first implemented in spring of 2017 to assess whether financial counseling could help affordable housing applicants submit a stronger application. The City Council also approved another year of funding for expansion of HPD’s Housing Ambassadors program, a partnership with community-based service providers to help people prepare and apply for affordable housing.
“HPD is committed to giving New Yorkers the tools they need to take advantage of the affordable housing opportunities we are creating at record pace. By building on the accomplishments of the Ready to Rent and Housing Ambassadors programs, we hope to do just that,” said Housing and Preservation Development Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer. “I want to thank the City Council for their commitment to providing financial counseling and assistance to New Yorkers seeking affordable housing, and look forward to working with my colleagues at the DCA, our Housing Ambassador partners, and Ariva as we continue to make strides on these important initiatives in 2018.”
“Our Office of Financial Empowerment is committed to helping New Yorkers better prepare their finances so that they can secure an affordable place to live and raise their families,” said Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “I am excited to announce that the Ready to Rent program has been renewed for another year, and encourage all New Yorkers seeking affordable housing to take advantage of the free one-on-one housing-focused financial counseling being offered across the city. Our counselors are dedicated to helping hardworking families overcome financial barriers and achieve their financial goals.”
“As the affordable housing crisis in our City continues, we must keep looking for realistic and effective solutions. The Ready to Rent program is one such solution that will transform the lives of New Yorkers by making it easier for them to apply and helping them find out if they qualify for affordable housing,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “The New York City Council supports efforts to combat the housing crisis by providing $450,000 in funding for the Ready to Rent Program and the Housing Ambassadors Program, both of which will go a long way towards relieving the burden of rent on families. I want to thank Commissioner Torres-Springer and Commissioner Salas for working to make sure that fewer hardworking New Yorkers struggle with the cost of rent.”
Throughout the spring of 2017, DCA and HPD provided New York City residents with housing-specific financial counseling and assistance with the affordable housing application process. These renewed funds allow DCA to continue to work with Ariva, a nonprofit that provides free, comprehensive financial counseling and coaching to New Yorkers with low incomes. These housing-focused financial counseling sessions are tailored to each individual’s affordable housing goals. Counselors work with residents to review their credit history and the credit factors that affect housing eligibility, support them to accurately calculate their income, assist them in identifying financial goals, and help create realistic budgets that include rent, moving costs, and other housing-related expenses. Ariva counselors are trained on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s income qualifications and fair housing policies, and HPD’s affordable housing marketing and lottery process, policies, and procedures.
From February to June 2017, DCA used HPD’s Housing Ambassador network primarily for outreach and to embed services within those organizations. During this time period Ariva conducted free, one-on-one financial counseling at their spaces to 172 people. The majority of individuals who participated were 45 years of age or older, making less than $20,000 annually, though many worked full-time jobs. Financial counselors focused on select milestones that clients could achieve to be on track to apply for affordable housing, the most common included reviewing credit, setting a financial goal, and calculating income. In an effort to reach more New Yorkers seeking affordable housing, DCA intends to use this information to better inform recent New York City Housing Lottery applicants and build upon the initial success of the Ready to Rent program.
HPD will again award its portion of City Council funding to a number of community-based Housing Ambassador organizations, which in the Spring of 2017 enabled them to boost their applicant-assistance service capabilities by reaching thousands of housing seekers. Housing Ambassadors hosted numerous public educational presentations and workshops of all sizes across the city, providing information and tools in multiple languages, connecting people to in-person application assistance and financial counseling appointments which will again be held at Housing Ambassador locations around New York City.
Language services, accessibility, and providing assistance to people during non-traditional work hours were successful components of the 2017 program that will remain integral this coming year. HPD and DCA created a guide Ready, Set Apply: Getting Ready for Affordable Housing in NYC – which is now available in eight languages – to help New Yorkers prepare for and navigate the housing application process. City Council funding also facilitated translations in over a dozen languages of a step-by-step guide on what to expect when applying for affordable housing, an income guide, and a guide for selected applicants to prepare for their interview after they apply.
HPD will also continue to fund the Low Income Housing Tax Credit training for Housing Ambassador and Ariva staff, to improve their efforts in helping housing applicants better understand the income and tax requirement components of housing lottery applications. The program also expanded the informational materials for applicants, adding translations to more languages, and producing informational videos about the Housing Ambassador and Ready to Rent programs. Technological upgrades were also made to help the organizations improve their applicant-assistance services in the field.
The launch of Ready to Rent and the expansion of the Housing Ambassador program were made possible through $450,000 in funding from City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. The Speaker’s funding supports financial counseling and empowerment with a housing focus in more than 10 targeted neighborhoods across the city. Together, HPD and DCA are working to enhance and integrate the HPD Housing Ambassador program and DCA’s financial empowerment services to better serve New York City residents.
About the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD):
The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is the nation’s largest municipal housing preservation and development agency. Its mission is to promote quality housing and diverse, thriving neighborhoods for New Yorkers through loan and development programs for new affordable housing, preservation of the affordability of the existing housing stock, enforcement of housing quality standards, and educational programs for tenants and building owners. HPD is tasked with fulfilling Mayor de Blasio’s Housing New York: A Five-Borough Ten-Year Plan to create and preserve 200,000 affordable units for New Yorkers at the very lowest incomes to those in the middle class. For more information visit www.nyc.gov/hpd and for regular updates on HPD news and services, connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @NYCHousing.
About the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA):
The NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) protects and enhances the daily economic lives of New Yorkers to create thriving communities. DCA licenses more than 81,000 businesses in more than 50 industries and enforces key consumer protection, licensing, and workplace laws that apply to countless more. By supporting businesses through equitable enforcement and access to resources and, by helping to resolve complaints, DCA protects the marketplace from predatory practices and strives to create a culture of compliance. Through its community outreach and the work of its offices of Financial Empowerment and Labor Policy & Standards, DCA empowers consumers and working families by providing the tools and resources they need to be educated consumers and to achieve financial health and work-life balance. DCA also conducts research and advocates for public policy that furthers its work to support New York City’s communities. For more information about DCA and its work, call 311 or visit DCA at nyc.gov/dca or on its social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.