BY DIANE S. WILLIAMS
Flooding downpours did not stop members from attending the annual August housing fair at the union hall, where many met real estate professionals who offer mortgages, inspections, credit counseling, and other housing-related services.
“I came because I’m looking to purchase my first home,” said SSEU Local 371 member Shermaine Taylor. “I got lots of great information on grants and mortgages and even student loan forgiveness. Everything I learned at the union I’m sharing with my coworkers.”
“Thirteen years ago, under the leadership of Lillian Roberts, I was tasked to put together a housing program for members,” said DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido. At the time more than 300 DC 37 families were living in homeless shelters. The city’s affordable housing stock dwindled as the Bloomberg administration ushered in a luxury housing construction boom.
“Today, the number of homeless members is less than 20,” Garrido notes, “though one homeless member is one too many.”
The Municipal Employees Housing Program has a special 5 percent of all affordable housing preference for union members. The union’s housing program has helped hundreds of members get housing grants and secure their first mortgage. MEHP also helps members who may be homeless or victims of domestic violence find safe housing.
“Ownership is possible,” said MEHP Director Ruth Peña. “We are here to walk you through the process step by step. We have a broad range of services and can work with your budget and even repair your credit.”
Union members who qualify may get grants of up to $15,000 through HPD’s HomeFirst down payment assistance program.
Also, MELS, the union’s legal services program, helps members with housing disputes and provides free attorneys for closing on home purchases, a $2,000 cost savings.
“All these services add up to real savings for our members,” Garrido said, “because our union is more than just contracts and health benefits.”