Cuomo Planning Discrimination Protections for Transgender New Yorkers

Taking action on a political issue that has long been stalled in Albany, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday announced executive action intended to protect transgender people from discrimination in housing, employment and other areas.

The governor, addressing the crowd at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, said he would direct the State Division of Human Rights to issue regulations that extend protections against discrimination found in a 1945 law to cover gender identity, transgender status and gender dysphoria.

read more

How the mortgage process just changed – CNN Money – October 6, 2015

How the mortgage process just changed
By: Kathryn Vasel

New disclosure rules went into effect in the mortgage world Saturday that require lenders to provide home buyers two new forms that clearly detail their loan terms.

“For consumers, it’s going to be viewed as an improvement in what can be a somewhat scary and intimidating process in the biggest investment of their life,” said David Stevens, CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association.
The rule, formally known as the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure rule, reduces what used to be four forms from two different government agencies to two forms: the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure.
Here’s what buyers can expect:

Comparing different loans


Lenders have to provide potential home buyers a Loan Estimate form within three days of a submitted application.

The three-page form details the terms of a potential loan including: amount, interest rate and whether the figures can change after closing.

Clearly breaking out these figures should make it easier to compare loans from different lenders (yes, you should shop around) to find the best rate and terms. Be sure to pay attention to whether the interest rate is fixed or adjustable and any potential future penalties you could face.

The form will also breakdown estimated closing costs.

click the link to go directly to the full article and video:

Affording the American dream of homeownership – Democrat & Chronicle – October 3, 2015

Affording the American dream of homeownership
By: Patti Singer and David Riley

Ben Kershner and his wife, Wolf, need to insulate their attic before winter. They likely will need a new water heater around the same time.

Boxes from their springtime move sit in the living room, waiting to be unpacked. Paintings still need to go up on the walls.

But when Ben looks around their new Greece home, he doesn’t see chores. He sees possibilities.

“There is so much potential in what we’ve just done in buying a house,” he said, sitting in his sunroom with Wolf and their infant daughter, Amber. “There’s the potential for a happy home, raising a family and watching my daughter grow up in these rooms.”

People in middle- and upper-income brackets may see homeownership as a given. Many people like the Kershners — at or just above the poverty line — still want that legacy for their children.

But their path to that piece of the American dream can be complicated.

Advocates say that disparities in mortgage lending have made it more difficult for some minority groups in the Rochester area to own homes, and foreclosures have hit low-income, African-American and Latino neighborhoods hardest.

The problem isn’t just in the city.

From 2000 to 2011, the number of poor people grew in Rochester’s suburbs by about 73 percent — a growth rate far higher than in the city itself, according to data compiled by the Brookings Institution. Scarcity of moderately priced houses in the inner-ring suburbs also limit options for those low-income wage earners.

Programs help people overcome these obstacles, but advocates say more can be done.

With a major initiative under way to alleviate local poverty, proponents say that owning a home can be a powerful way for poor people to build wealth and stability as long as the lending terms are fair, and buyers are well-educated about the financial responsibilities that go with the purchase.

For families across the economic spectrum, homeownership often seems like a natural step. Chad Rieflin, director of program and grants for Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Rochester, said parents decide they need a different environment for their children or see others moving up the ladder.

click the link to go directly to the full article and video:

Water crisis in Flint declared public health emergency

Last Updated Oct 2, 2015 1:47 PM EDT

A public health emergency has been declared in cash-strapped Flint, Michigan, after tests showed the city’s water supply is causing elevated levels of lead in children, following months of complaints about the smell and taste.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced Friday that the state will spend $1 million to buy water filters and immediately test water in public schools in Flint. He also announced expanded health exposure testing, continued free water testing, and quicker steps to ensure that water from the Flint River is effectively treated.

The problems arose after the city broke away from Detroit’s water system in 2014 and began taking water from the Flint River to save money, pending the completion of a new regional pipeline in 2016.

On Thursday, the Genesee County health department declared a public health emergency, recommending that people not drink the water unless it has been filtered and tested to rule out elevated levels of lead. More steps will be announced Friday.


On the Marketview Heights Neighborhood from Julie Everitt; 40 years later still optimistic -Democrat & Chronicle- September 6, 2015

On the Marketview Heights Neighborhood from Julie Everitt; 40 years later still optimistic
By: David Kramer

North Ave

In Marketview, Julie was seen in the Susan B. Anthony community garden, surrounded by green beans, tomatoes and marigolds planted by neighborhood children. She scouted out vacant eyesore houses to be demolished. And faithfully attended hundred of planning meetings. And doing her weekly shopping at the Public Market.

Today’s front page story, “How to fix a neighborhood on the edge,” is a well researched and informed history and snapshot of where Marketview stands. But no story about Marketview is complete without Julie’s commentary drawn from decades of experience:

1. What changes did you see in the neighborhood over 40 years? Disappearing middle class jobs One of the biggest changes was the employment picture. At one time, a considerable number of residents had decent paying jobs including benefits, health care and pensions. Not peculiar to Rochester, these jobs are gone. New jobs pay less, have fewer benefits and require a car. In this economic environment, affordable housing and support services like day care keep families afloat and employed. Decent affordable housing is just as important as home ownership.

2. We hear so much about gentrification. Is Marketview suited for gentrification? Obviously this is a low-income neighborhood. The residents and many of the other players believe gentrification is not the answer for this area of the City. Gentrification, or the influx of middle-income families to neighborhoods, has done much to revitalize other areas such as the South Wedge and Neighborhood of the Arts. Cities, however, will probably always be home to lower-income families. While mixed income housing can be a goal, I believe a low-income neighborhood can be a viable area. A safe place to live and work where residents have the capacity to make decisions regarding their lives and future. Ultimately, such neighborhoods do require more resources, both public and private, than middle income areas. But the investment pays off by creating a sense of neighborhood autonomy and self-reliance.

Click the link to go directly to the full article:–marketview-heights-neighborhood–julie-everitt-40-years-later-still-optimistic/71828786/

NY comptroller says high home foreclosure level persists -Democrat & Chronicle- August 18, 2015

NY comptroller says high home foreclosure level persists
By: Jon Campbell, Albany bureau

ALBANY – Foreclosure filings in New York remain more prevalent than they were prior to the housing crisis but have begun to level off, according to a report Monday.

There were 43,868 new foreclosure cases filed last year in New York courts, down from 46,696 the previous year, the report from Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office found. The rate of filings remains well above pre-recession levels, however: 26,706 new cases were filed in 2006.

Despite the drop in new filings, a backlog of cases remains. Many of those are downstate, including a growing caseload in the Hudson Valley.

Statewide, there were 92,070 pending cases as of January 2015, which had remained largely steady since May 2014 after increasing from 72,183 at the beginning of 2013, according to the report.

“Foreclosed properties displace families and weigh heavily on local communities, reducing property values and eroding tax bases,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “We must continue efforts to help homeowners and stem the spread of foreclosure-induced blight.”

DiNapoli’s report shows some regions of the state have fared better than others. New York City’s suburbs, where property values are high, have seen a growing buildup of foreclosure proceedings.

Two of the four counties with the highest foreclosure rates were in the lower Hudson Valley: Rockland, where 2.26 percent of housing units are the subject of pending foreclosures; and Putnam, with 2.1 percent. Only Nassau (2.47 percent) and Suffolk (2.82 percent) on Long Island had higher county rates.

In the mid-to-lower Hudson Valley region — defined in the report as Dutchess County stretching south through Westchester County — there were 13,385 pending foreclosure cases at the start of 2015, up 18 percent from 11,342 in 2014. In January 2013, there were 6,410 pending cases in the region, according to the report.

Of the seven counties in the region, Westchester had the most pending cases with 4,137 at the start of the year. The county’s foreclosure rate was the lowest in the region, however, at 1.12 percent of housing units.

Dutchess County had 1,705 pending foreclosure cases, or 1.44 percent of housing units.

Most other regions saw a slower increase in their pending caseload.

The Finger Lakes — which includes Monroe County and surrounding counties — saw a 4.2 percent bump in pending cases from 2014 to 2015, from 3,740 to 3,898. The region had just 2,322 pending foreclosures at the beginning of 2013.

Monroe had 2,622 of those pending cases at the start of the year, or 0.82 percent of housing units.

Click the link to go directly to the full article:

Open Door Mission to expand services – 13wham- July 16, 2015

Open Door Mission to expand services
By: 13Wham

Rochester, N.Y. – The Open Door Mission is widening its reach to include women and children.

The executive director says the number of homeless students in the Rochester City School District is leading the faith-based housing shelter to open its doors to women.

“We found that this is a population that, if we get these moms and their children to a stable situation, we could really make an impact on those families,” said Open Door Executive Director Mike Hennessy.

Hennessy says the idea of providing transitional housing for women and their kids has been in the works for years. Women will get financial, parenting, cooking and life skills.

“To each family, the program is going to look different,” said program administrator Anna Valeria-Iseman. “The ultimate goal is to get them to prevent whatever it was that brought them to that situation from ever happening again.”

The proposed plan is to pour $2 million into a church on Post Avenue, adding beds and building a playground for up to 20 women and their children over the next three years. They will be able to stay there up to nine months, so they can get back on their feet.

“We really think this is the right place; It’s a wonderful neighborhood,” Hennessy said.

Family referrals would come from the RCSD’s Homeless Student program.

“What we’re really trying to do is address the value of education in these kids,” Valeria-Iseman said.

She also said the program includes following up with all the children who come through the mission to make sure they graduate from high school.

Open Door Mission has held a few informational meetings with the 19th Ward Neighborhood Association, and plan to hold more to gain the support of residents.

The organization is also seeking the city’s approval to re-zone the church as a residential care facility. The church is currently occupied, but Hennessy said that ministry plans to relocate.

Click the link to go directly to the full article:

Cadillac Hotel could go in new direction -Democrat & Chronicle- July 7, 2015

Cadillac Hotel could go in new direction
By: David Riley

A downtown hotel that often has served as a temporary home for homeless people may become an apartment building.

Mayor Lovely Warren is asking City Council to endorse an application for $500,000 in state funding to help turn the Cadillac Hotel into 56 market-rate apartments.

The roughly 90-year-old, eight-story building is at the corner of Chestnut and Elm streets downtown, near the city’s Midtown redevelopment project.

In a letter to council this week, Warren wrote that the developer wants to turn floors two through eight into apartments, with six studios and two one-bedroom units on each floor. The first floor would include 2,837 square feet of retail space and a lobby.

The project would cost $7.9 million, according to the mayor’s letter.

“The opportunity to redevelop the Cadillac Hotel building would serve to further revitalize Chestnut Street and contribute to increasing vitality in the East End,” Warren wrote.

Click the link to go directly to the full article:

Housing Forecast: What To Expect In The Second Half of 2015 -Forbes- June 22, 2015

Housing Forecast: What To Expect In The Second Half of 2015
By:Erin Carlyle -Forbes Staff-

The recession may be over, but the housing market still bears scars. Take the homeownership rate. In 2005, America’s homeownership rate was 69.1%. Today, it’s 63.7%, the lowest level the nation has seen since 1993.

The good news for sellers is that demand for housing is back, and prices are continuing to rise. But for buyers–especially first-time ones—inflating price tags are clearly not a positive. Add to rising prices the triple whammy of rapidly rising rents, sluggish wage growth, and high student debt loads, and buying into the American Dream is fairly tough for the younger and lower-earning end of the population. And that has a ripple effect. “The housing market conveyer belt requires people to buy the homes,” explains Stan Humphries, chief economist at Seattle-based real estate data site Zillow. “If we can’t get people on the first rung the whole conveyer belt slows down.”

At the beginning of the year we surveyed experts for their predictions for 2015. Now that we’re halfway through, here’s what you need to know about how the rest of the year is likely to unfold:

Demand is still on the rise
In the largest 100 markets in the nation, it’s still cheaper to own than rent, by a whopping 38% on a national basis, says real estate data firm Trulia. Of course, real estate is local and conditions vary widely. Still, the rent-v-buy trade-off isn’t likely to shift until mortgage rates hit about 10.6%, Trulia predicts. Many renters see how much of their paychecks go to housing and know it makes sense to buy.

The improving jobs market is another reason for increased housing demand. Last year, the nation gained three million jobs. This year we’re on track to add another two million, says Doug Duncan, chief economist at Fannie Mae. Household formation has picked up in the past couple of quarters, indicating that younger people are feeling more confident about leaving their parents’ nests to form households of their own. “The pickup in jobs is resulting in some increase in real incomes, so the demand side is strengthening faster than the supply side,” Duncan says.

There aren’t enough homes for sale
The biggest story of 2015 by far is the lack of inventory. Despite the fact that investors have mostly left the market (since the great deals of the recession are now gone), regular people are still competing for too few homes. One key reason: developers simply aren’t building enough new houses. In May, groundbreakings stood at an annual rate of 1.036 million, well below the 1.5 million needed to get supply back in line with demand.

Too many homes are listed at higher price points
Compounding the problem, builders are focusing on higher-end homes. Typically, new homes sell for about $25,000 more than previously-owned ones. These days they’re selling for about $75,000 more; the skewed numbers are a good indication that builders are catering to the affluent. This focus is likely part of the reason that the share of first-time buyers is stuck around 30%, when historically it’s been closer to 40%. Of the major homebuilders, only DR Horton’s Express Homes and LGI Homes are specifically targeting lower-tier buyers.

Click the link to go directly to the full article:

Rochester buying, fixing vacant homes-13WHAM-May 26, 2015

Rochester buying, fixing vacant homes

Rochester, N.Y. – Having a home of her own was Sholonda Bradley’s long term goal. “I’m excited, this has been my dream to buy a home,” Bradley said. That dream is now becoming a reality with the help of the city of Rochester, the Rochester Housing Development fund and other community partnerships. Bradley was able to buy her nearly 2,000 square foot home in an area she’s grown to love. “I grew up in the 19th ward. It’s always been my home. I lived out in Chili for about 15 years but I’ve always been drawn to this area,” said Bradley. It’s for people like Bradley, programs like HOME Rochester exists, providing opportunities for first time homebuyers. “It means safer neighborhoods for us to have this vacant home re-occupied by a family, is something we are aspired to do and bring to more city residents,” Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said. The program received a $15 million loan to buy and renovate 70 vacant homes in the city. That breaks down to about $214,000 per home. Bradley’s home cost about $200,000 to fix up, while other homes may cost less. “Each house has a different price depending on what has to be done to the home. This one was occupied by somebody who had a hoarding problem, so there was extensive cleanout and then there was removal of asbestos and removal of lead and then the renovations,” said Jean Lowe, who is President of the Greater Rochester Housing Partnership. “When these homes were built, they were built with a lot of environmental material that’s just unsafe anymore,” said Mayor Warren. “A lot of them were built with lead, asbestos and other things, to remove those products from the home; it cost a lot of money.” The program is designed to make the homes move-in ready for the families. Bradley plans to close on her new home this summer. “The first thing I plan to do is have a big barbeque in that big back yard,” said Bradley. The construction costs are paid back through the mortgage and subsidies. Homeowners who buy a house under the program must live in the home for 15 years. If they move before that, they either have to pay back the subsidies or sell it to another qualified buyer in the program. The loan allows the HOME Rochester program to continue for three more years.

Click the link to go directly to the full article and video: