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2000 Best Practice Awards

Best of the Best Winners: New York


Best Practice: Schenectady Inner City Ministry

Inner City Ministry Draws on 53 Congregations to Address Concerns of Low- and Moderate-Income Residents

Schenectady, New York. The Schenectady Inner City Ministry (SICM) is an ecumenical partnership of 53 congregations working together to “relate the resources of the churches to the human needs of the city.” SICM initiates programs of joint service on behalf of member congregations to address critical concerns affecting and involving low- and moderate-income residents of Schenectady, New York. SICM serves more than 30,000 individuals each year through its various programs.

SICM’s projects typically involve developing and spinning off projects, using volunteer resources extensively and defining the

Rev. Grisby receiving Best of the Best award
Rev. Phillip Grisby (c) receiving Best of the Best award from Secretary Cuomo (l) and Deputy Secretary Ramirez (r)

project so that a real difference can be made in a reasonable amount of time. SICM traditionally has developed programs to meet community needs, nurtured those programs along and then, when appropriate, spun them off to other organizations or to independence. Locally well known spin-offs include Project SAFE and SAFE HOUSE (outreach to prostitutes and runaway youth), Bethesda House (downtown day shelter for the homeless) and Hill and Vale Affordable Housing (a community land trust).

Current SICM initiatives include the following:

  1. The county's largest emergency food pantry, which is a model pantry run primarily by volunteers but serving 25,000 annually.

  2. The Damien Center, a drop-in center for people infected with and/or affected by HIV/AIDS, which serves over 180 peoples a year.

  3. A neighborhood-based job placement, information and referral center, called JOBS etc. JOBS places 300+ people a year in jobs. JOBS recently received the "Human Services Program of the Year" award from the Council of Community Services, a statewide group.

  4. Save and Share, a food-buying co-op, which saves participants significantly on first quality food and is especially helpful to the marginal, lower-waged worker and seniors provided an average of 329 units of discounted groceries each month.

  5. An appliance matching service, run by volunteers, that directly links persons wanting to donate appliances with those needing them.

  6. A growing summer youth lunch program, located in city parks and at some congregational sites, which provides approximately 30,000 lunches over a 7 week period.

  7. SCITT, a teen improvisational and educational theater troupe that does skits written by teens on such topics as drug prevention, relationships, AIDS prevention, parents, and the like. SCITT has received several awards.

  8. Coalition building on public issues with and on behalf of the churches in areas affecting inner city communities.

  9. A Housing Task Force that administers a revolving loan fund for security deposits, approved 45 security deposit loans last year. In addition, it also coordinates housing developers and providers, and advocates for improved public policies on housing.

SICM can be replicated through partnerships among congregations in any community, along with nonprofit organizations and government agencies. In addition to its programs, SICM supports several collaborative efforts, including the Community Crisis Network (serves individuals in crisis) and Schenectady County Embraces Diversity (a study circle project to address racism and race relations).

Contact: Ms. Marianne Comfort, Phone: (518)374-2683
Tracking Number: 736
Winning Category: Program (Community Builder)


Best Practice: Home Ownership Services

Counseling Program Ensures Sustainable Homeownership

Rochester, New York. The Home Ownership Services Program offers assistance that is designed to reach people in Rochester and Monroe counties with wide-ranging concerns related to home ownership and provides services in English, Spanish and American Sign Language. For first-time homebuyers, pre-purchase counseling provided by the program enhances their consumer skills and walks them through the complicated homebuying process. The program works with local lenders to provide counseling as part of HUD’s Comprehensive Housing Counseling Program. Senior citizens can receive

Photo of recipients receiving Best of the Best award
Ann Peterson/Amy Brough receiving Best of the Best award from Secretary Cuomo (l) and Deputy Secretary Ramirez (r)

information and assistance on reverse mortgage programs such as HUD’s Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) to help people with limited incomes remain in their homes.

Acting as an advocate for homeowners facing foreclosure, the program helps by negotiating realistic repayment plans with their lenders and loan servicers. In addition, the program works with the families to develop budgets and discover untapped income sources that will assist them with meeting future payments. Qualified homeowners who demonstrate an ability to maintain mortgage payments are offered deferred payment loans. It also helps eligible families access mortgage relief funding available through some of the local town’s Community Development Block Grant funding for families who have fallen behind in their mortgages due to circumstances beyond their control.

In 1999, the Housing Council’s Home Ownership Services Program provided pre-purchase counseling to 178 first time homebuyers and proceeded to close loans, allowing homebuyers to complete the purchase of their first home. The program also counseled 317 families who were delinquent in their mortgage payments—95 percent of whom succeeded in avoiding foreclosure.

Home Ownership Services works in partnership with various organizations to conduct outreach in the community. Referrals come through HUD’s FHA programs, the Consumer Credit Counseling program, and advocates such as the American Association of Retired People (AARP). Home Ownership Services staff also works closely with local lenders, area governments, and senior citizens centers to keep them informed of available services.

Contact: Anne Peterson, Phone: (716) 546-3700 Ext. 3008
Tracking Number: 443
Winning Category: Geographic

Best Practice: StoreWorks

StoreWorks Project Creates New Housing and Retail Space

New York, New York. How best to handle deteriorating mixed-use properties is an ongoing problem in urban neighborhoods. Even one unused, declining building in an otherwise economically viable neighborhood can have a significant impact, but finding private investors willing and able to take on the costs of rehabilitation and financing is a challenge. One answer is the StoreWorks Project in New York City. StoreWorks facilitates the purchase, redevelopment and return to private ownership of vacant, deteriorated city-owned buildings. Through StoreWorks, 35 commercial spaces and 72 affordable dwelling units have been rehabilitated, and all have been turned over

Recipients (c) receiving Best of the Best award from Secretary Cuomo (l) and Deputy Secretary Ramirez (r)

to private owners.

Before the StoreWorks Project, the neighborhood business community—the group that was most interested in buying and maintaining these city-owned properties—was excluded from the market because of the high cost of development and financing. By leveraging financing from both the public and private sectors, the project created a solution that allows members of the community to be the driving forces in redevelopment.

StoreWorks is a collaborative partnership among the City of New York Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the Neighborhood Housing Services Community Development Corporation (NHS), HUD, and the BNY Mortgage Company. In the first round of the project, HPD sold NHS 34 properties consisting almost exclusively of buildings with a storefront at street level and 1-8 housing units on the upper stories. BNY Mortgage Company, Greenpoint and EAB provided private sector financing, while renovation and permanent financing was obtained through a HUD-insured FHA 203(k) mortgage. HPD provided additional funds through city subsidies. During the second round, 63 mixed-use buildings with 168 dwelling units are slated for commercial and residential renovation.

Loans for mixed-use properties are commonly treated like commercial loans and therefore require a large down payment and higher financing costs. These requirements exclude most small neighborhood-based business owners. FHA’s low down payments and reduced closing costs removed these barriers and enabled neighborhood business people to qualify. The use of the HUD mortgage in collaboration with the BNY Mortgage private sector financing helped solve the problem of financing mixed-use properties.

The project takes advantage of the existing resources of all of the major partners. HPD had an inventory of deteriorated properties and was willing to subsidize the project. NHS has development experience, and it delivered qualified buyers through its existing homeowner and landlord counseling. The collaboration between HUD and BNY Mortgage designed the financing and funded the loans, enabling the rehabilitated units to be passed on to the qualified neighborhood buyers.

The StoreWorks Project goes beyond returning run-down buildings to the market; the project is also a force for community revitalization. In addition to increasing the number of affordable rental housing units, it has boosted employment, retail services and economic opportunity.

Contact: David Beer, Phone: (212) 519-2526
Tracking Number: 1971
Winning Category: Program (Housing - Single Family)

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Content Archived: April 20, 2011

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