Pilot program would give NY college graduates money for homes –

GENEVA—First, it was “tuition-free” college at SUNY schools. Now New York is offering recent college graduates money toward the down payment of a home.

The “Graduate to Homeownership” program, launched on Wednesday, provides first time homebuyers who have graduated with an associates, bachelors, masters or doctorate degree in the past 48 months between $3,000 and $15,000 in down payment assistance if they buy a home in one of 8 specific upstate cities.

The $5 million program is first-come, first-served and open to those graduates who want to buy a home in the cities of Jamestown, Geneva, Elmira, Oswego, Oneonta, Plattsburgh, Glens Falls or Middletown. The program works in conjunction with the Downtown Revitalization Initiative that was announced for those same cities earlier this year.

The hope is that the incentive will encourage graduates to put down roots in upstate communities, bringing new energy and talent into cities that have struggled with “brain drain” in the past. “They graduate, they want to buy a house and it just seems insurmountable, that dream is so far in the future and we want to make that dream a reality sooner,” says Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul.

How much each individual graduate gets depends on how much the home costs. He/she will also be required to take a homebuyer education course. There is no requirement that the graduate stay in the house for a specific time period after purchasing the home and claiming the incentive. “On top of all of the school loans and things like that that I have, to have a program that offers to actually help you, to give you assistance with closing costs, it’s definitely something to look into,” says Deirdre Ware, a student at Finger Lakes Community College.

The $5 million program along with the $165 million “tuition-free” SUNY college program are funded by taxpayers in this year’s state budget.

Jennifer Lewke (News10NBC): “You have taxpayers on the other side of this issue that say, ‘I’m still paying my student’s college loans, I came up with money for a down payment to be a paying taxpayer here in New York State, why am I being asked to pay for other people’s gains?’ How do you respond to that?”
Lt. Gov Hochul: “We’re investing in people…To the people who are paying student debt from years past, I’m sorry that we didn’t have a program like this before, I’m sure you would have taken advantage of this but something like this has to start somewhere.”

“Graduate to Homeownership” is a pilot program. The state says if it’s successful and a lot of students sign up and have success, it may look to expand it in other cities during next year’s state budget process.

For more information you can click here

Root out unfair housing issues – Democrat & Chronicle

Root out unfair housing issues

by: Editorial Board

Sometimes to uncover a case of housing discrimination, it takes a super sleuth. Or, in New York, it takes a “tester.”

This week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched the Fair Housing Program, and its goal is to uncover discrimination in rental and home sale transactions. As part of the program, the state’s Division of Homes and Community Renewal will use trained fair housing “testers” — people who represent different racial, gender, and economic backgrounds, parents and people with disabilities. Acting as potential renters or home seekers, the testers will check for discriminatory bias among sellers and landlords.

Forty-eight years after the Fair Housing Act of 1968 made it unlawful to discriminate in the rental, sale and financing of homes, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disability, housing discrimination continues to quietly plague our community. Those who deny access must be rooted out and this program is a good tool in fighting a morally repugnant problem that is more subtle than it was 50 years ago.

The New York state Division of Human Rights recently reached settlements on 123 cases filed with the state alleging housing discrimination in 2015. In one of those cases, a potential tenant in Rochester filed a complaint that alleged a broker at a real estate firm denied her the opportunity to view and apply for an apartment because of her race, and made false assertions of unavailability to dissuade her from pursuing the unit. The broker was required to pay damages.

Sadly, news of housing discrimination cases statewide and locally comes as no surprise to us. Unite Rochester began reporting on the racial disparities in housing in our community in 2013, and there have been ongoing examples locally.

Last summer, for example, Empire Justice Center, a statewide public interest law firm, released a report that said African-Americans in Rochester are being disproportionately shut out of the local housing market. Black people are twice as likely — or even more, depending on their income bracket — to be denied mortgages when compared to white people who earn equal pay.  Also last year,  Five Star Bank settled claims that it had refused to give loans to people living in Rochester or predominantly minority suburban neighborhoods.

The benefits of the Fair Housing Program include more than potentially catching and punishing scofflaws. The information collected by testers could help raise awareness about the subtle but still damaging discriminatory acts that continue to exist in our community.

If the Fair Housing Program can raise awareness while helping to eradicate housing discrimination, it will contribute to making New York state a fairer, more welcoming state for all.

Click here to read more…

$10M in neighborhood grants at risk – Democrat & Chronicle

$10M in neighborhood grants at risk

by: Meaghan M. McDermott

A federal funding stream that has poured more than $100 million into the Rochester-area economy over the past decade is in jeopardy as the Trump administration seeks to end a government grant program that injects funds into community and economic development projects.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program, known in government parlance as the CDBG program, is a potential budget-cut target this year under a blueprint released last month by President Donald J. Trump. Eliminating the program would result in a national annual savings of $3 billion that could be spent on something else. The budget blueprint calls for boosting military spending by more than $54 billion, a 10 percent increase, that would be funded with equivalent cuts in other areas.

The Trump administration says it believes the tax cut plan it announced this past week will pay for itself through economic growth. So the likelihood is that the $3 billion savings from ending CDBGs would go toward the boost in military spending.

If CDBGs ends

The blueprint Trump put forward could change several times before a budget is finalized, and there are other potential program cuts that could impact the Rochester region. But cutting the block grants would be felt very close to home.

What would potentially be lost would be quality of life programs that the $3 billion supports now, including state and local government endeavors as varied as job training, parking lots, museums, housing repairs and infrastructure projects. Local and state governments, already strapped for cash, would have to make up the difference, if it were to be made up at all.

CDBGs also support Meals on Wheels, which got the lion’s share of attention last month after news broke of a possible federal initiative to eliminate the 42-year-old CDBG program. But, helping to provide meals to elderly shut-ins is just a tiny sliver of the federal dollars given to localities to improve overall quality of life for residents. An exclusive Democrat and Chronicle analysis of 2016 CDBG projects in Monroe County and the three communities here (Greece, Irondequoit and Rochester) that get dedicated funds from the program shows:

►While the bulk of the funds, more than $8 million in the fiscal year 2016, went to the city of Rochester, benefits also accrued to projects in more than a dozen suburban communities that do not get direct federal grants.

 ►Of more than $1.8 million provided to Monroe County, about a third was granted to towns and villages for fixes or improvements to their roadways, sewer systems, parks and public facilities.

►Nearly $1.4 million was provided to low- and moderate-income homeowners all across the county via direct grants and low-cost loans to make vital home repairs to roofs, foundations, windows or plumbing, heating and electrical systems. In Rochester, some of this money is also used to help homeowners eliminate problems related to lead-based paint, which has been linked to a range of health problems.

►Tens of thousands of dollars was used for initiatives that help senior citizens age in place and retain their longtime homes, including transportation and legal services, home safety assessments and installing bathroom handrails and grab bars.

Numerous officials say that if the funding stream dries up, they would face the difficult choice of asking local property taxpayers to shoulder an additional burden or doing without.

Click here to read the full story…

Thank you FiveStar Bank for your generous gift in support of The Housing Council at PathStone Post Purchase program!

FiveStarBankWe would like to thank FiveStar Bank for their generous gift in support of our Post Purchase program! Participants enjoyed learning home maintenance skills in order to avoid costly repairs, how to get the most “bang for their buck” when remodeling, how to safe guard their financial investment from foreclosure and walked away with a gift card to Lowe’s to get started on their own DIY projects. On behalf of the staff here at The Housing Council at PathStone and all of our program graduates, thank you FiveStar Bank!

Interested in joining us for our next Post Purchase class? Call 585.546.3700 ext. 3035. 

Apartment, retail buildings on South Ave. set to open next week – 13wham.com

Apartment, retail buildings on South Ave. set to open next week

by: wham

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHAM) – Two new mixed-use buildings are set to open in Rochester’s South Wedge neighborhood next week.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday, May 3 for the new Wedgepoint Apartments on South Avenue near Byron Street.

The two buildings will house 60 apartments in one, two and three-bedroom units. There will also be 4,900 square feet of retail space on the first floor of each building, which totals 68,000 square feet.

Both buildings already have more than 75 percent occupancy and one of the three commercial spaces is already being rented.

“With Wedgepoint, [PathStone developers] have transformed a vacant lot into the perfect gateway to the Rochester’s South Wedge neighborhood,” said Judith Rose, Senior Relationship Manager with NeighborWorks America.

The building was financed through the City of Rochester, NYS Home, NYS Community Investment Fund, NYS Housing Trust Fund, NeighborWorks America and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program (Federal & NYS), and The Community Preservation Corporation’s permanent loan funded through the NYS Common Retirement Fund.

Click here to read more…

Proposed bill takes aim at New York landlords who try to force out tenants www.nydailynews.com

Proposed bill takes aim at New York landlords who try to force out tenants

by: Erin Durkin

A proposed state law would make it a crime for landlords to harass tenants to get them out of their apartments, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Wednesday.

The proposed bill would make it a misdemeanor for a landlord to engage in a course of conduct intended to drive a tenant from their home.

Landlords could face felony charges for going after tenants in two or more rent regulated apartments.

“Some bad landlords see rent regulated tenants as just a potential gold mine, and more than a few are looking to make a fast buck by harassing tenants out of their homes,” Schneiderman said at an East Harlem news conference.

“It has become clear that our state’s existing criminal laws are simply inadequate to address the reality of tenant harassment.”

Current law says landlords can only be charged with a crime if a tenant is physically injured, and prosecutors can prove the landlord intended to cause the injury.

Not a single landlord has been convicted under the law in the nearly two decades it has been on the books.

 “This is an absurdly high bar,” Schneiderman said.

The new legislation would allow charges against landlords who launch dust-spewing construction projects in hopes of forcing residents out, or cut off heat and hot water.

As the Daily News first reported Tuesday, the attorney general is also publishing a new “know your rights” guide for immigrant tenants after complaints landlords have threatened tenants who are in the country illegally.

Maria, a Ridgewood tenant who wouldn’t give her last name, said she’s battling her landlord after he tried to scare her into moving out.

“He told me if I didn’t leave the apartment, immigration would come and take away all the undocumented people who live in the apartment,” she said in Spanish.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said the Council is also working on a package of legislation to make tenant harassment harder to prove.

“These initiatives will help ensure that the people who are most in need do not fall prey to unscrupulous landlords,” she said.

Click here to read more…

A.G. Schneiderman Announces New Legislation To Criminally Crack Down On Tenant Harassment – ag.ny.gov

A.G. Schneiderman Announces New Legislation To Criminally Crack Down On Tenant Harassment

 

New Legislation Would Broaden And Strengthen Existing Tenant Harassment Laws, Make It Easier To Criminally Prosecute Landlords Who Force Rent-Regulated Tenants To Vacate

Schneiderman: With Affordable Housing As Scarce As Ever, It’s Time For Lawmakers To Give Prosecutors New Tools To Stop The Menacing – And Often Dangerous – Measures These Landlords Use To Force Tenants Out Of Their Homes

NEW YORK—Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman unveiled new legislation today aimed at holding the city’s most unscrupulous landlords criminally accountable for tenant harassment. Current state law demands prosecutors reach an inexplicably high bar in order to criminally charge landlords with harassment of rent-regulated tenants—which is why in the past twenty years, not a single landlord has ever been convicted of the crime of Harassment of a Rent Regulated Tenant. The AG’s legislation would change that, by setting a more reasonable standard that removes the need to prove physical injury to a tenant, and opens the door to prosecutions arising out of more commonplace and insidious tactics, such as turning off heat and hot water, exposing young children to lead dust, and making rent-stabilized buildings deliberately uninhabitable for current tenants and their families.

The legislation introduced today is just the most recent action taken by the AG to stem a rising tide of tenant harassment complaints across New York City. The AG’s other work includes:

“Our current laws are outdated, ineffective, and totally inadequate to keep tenants safe from unscrupulous landlords seeking to unlawfully evict New York families. With affordable housing as scarce as ever, it’s time for lawmakers to give prosecutors new tools to stop the menacing – and often dangerous – measures these landlords use to force tenants out of their homes,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Protecting vulnerable tenants has been, and will remain, a top priority of my office.”

“Toughening up criminal penalties helps us level the playing field and protect tenants victimized by greedy, negligent landlords who put their own profit ahead of the rights of those paying the rent,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman’s move to make it harder for bad actors to harass tenants, and will join him in advocating for this important penal law change.”

“Stronger tenant harassment legislation will deter potential unconscionable acts and help tenants feel more secure in filing charges against any unscrupulous landlords,” said New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “I commend Attorney General Schneiderman for his work on this very important bill that will extend protections to all tenants. The New York City Council last week introduced a tenant harassment protections package of legislation that will work conjunction with this bill, and we will continue to partner with the Attorney General to protect everyone in our City — especially the most vulnerable.”

Under the existing Harassment of a Rent Regulated Tenant statute, a prosecutor must not only prove that the offending landlord intended to cause the tenant to vacate their home, but also that the tenant sustained physical injury due to the landlord’s actions and that the landlord actually intended to cause (or acted with criminal recklessness in causing) such injury. This existing Penal Law statute creates an inexplicably high bar that – in the nearly two decades since the law was enacted – has never been met. In fact, a recent analysis of NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services data shows that not a single landlord has ever been convicted of the crime of Harassment of a Rent Regulated Tenant.

The Attorney General’s legislation would eliminate the need to prove physical injury to a tenant, and a landlord’s specific intent to cause it, in order to secure a criminal conviction against an offending landlord. Specifically, the legislation:

  • Adds a new class A misdemeanor that would apply to landlords and their agents who, with the intent to cause a rent regulated tenant to vacate their home, engage in a “course of conduct” that is reasonably likely to, and does in fact, interfere with and disturb the comfort, repose, peace and quiet of such tenant in the use of their home;
  • Expands the existing class E felony Penal Law statute to make it unlawful for landlords or their agents to attempt to force tenants in two or more rent-regulated units to move out by engaging in a “systematic ongoing course of conduct” or “repeatedly committing acts over a period of time” that “is or are reasonably likely to interfere with and disturb, and does or do interfere with and disturb, the comfort, repose, peace and quiet” of such tenants in the use of their homes; and
  • Makes it a class E felony for a landlord to commit the new class A misdemeanor offense after he or she has been convicted of that crime within the preceding five years.

These provisions make it easier for prosecutors to curb common tactics used by landlords to force out tenants, including long and disruptive construction projects, deprivation of hot water and heat for extended periods of time. The new class A misdemeanor imposes a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail. The class E felony carries a maximum sentence of up to four years in prison.

Earlier today, Attorney General Schneiderman released new “Know Your Rights” guidance for immigrant tenants facing landlord harassment on the basis of immigration status.

“Today’s announcement is significant in our efforts to protect tenants from harassment by landlords that have either threatened physical harm or caused injury in an attempt to get them to vacate their home. This bill will help provide real protections for innocent tenants who have been subjected to threats and harm by their landlords due to an ineffective Penal Law statute,” said U.S. Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13).

“Too often, unscrupulous landlords get away with tenant harassment and abuse because of outdated laws. Attorney General Schneiderman’s legislation will ensure that bad landlords can be held accountable for their criminal actions. We must continue to taking every action possible to protect tenants and ensure every New York has access to a safe and decent home,” said Public Advocate Letitia James.

Click here to read more…

Performing arts center, mixed-use space to be built on Parcel 5 – 13wham.com

Performing arts center, mixed-use space to be built on Parcel 5

by: Carlet Cleare

Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) – A performing arts center and mixed-used development space will be built on a space of land deemed ‘Parcel 5’ at Midtown in downtown Rochester, Mayor Lovely Warren announced Friday.

The Golisano Center for the Performing Arts and Tower will be built in the space on East Main Street and will feature housing, retail shops, restaurants and additional parking. Parcel 5 is one of the Midtown development parcels created since the demolition of Midtown Plaza was completed in 2011.

 The project is a co-venture between Morgan Communities and the Rochester Broadway Theatre League (RBTL).

“This project is going to happen,” said RBTL chairman Arnie Rothschild. “This is a culmination of a lot of years of combinations and planning. This was the right moment, and so, it’s now a reality.”

It is estimated to cost $130 million. Last month, Paychex founder Tom Golisano pledged $25 million to the performing arts center in Rochester.

“A standalone arts center would not give us, we didn’t believe that financially that it would feasible,” Mayor Lovely Warren said. “But with this particular project, with the housing and the retail, we believe that that is a better mix that will allow this project to go forward.”

The performing arts center will have approximately 3,000 seats. A residential tower is also being planned with 150 rental units, some of which will be affordable housing. The tower will also have retail shops and restaurants at street level.

“This much anticipated selection for Parcel 5 is a victory for our city in every way and I am grateful to Bob Morgan, RBTL and Tom Golisano for their investment in Rochester and its people,” said Mayor Warren. “Today we will begin a journey that will bring a combined 776 construction and permanent jobs to those who need them most, all while reinvigorating our city center with a hub of activity, entertainment, housing, commerce, shops and restaurants. This project will be an anchor for new development and represents continued progress for our city and, most importantly, its residents.”

The CEO of Visit Rochester said a performing arts center will help draw tourists and generate revenue.

Click here to read more…

PathStone CEO to serve on New York Fed’s Community Advisory Group – rbj.net

PathStone CEO to serve on New York Fed’s Community Advisory Group

April 21, 2017

 A local business leader has been tapped to serve on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s new Community Advisory Group.

PathStone Corp. CEO Stuart Mitchell

PathStone Corp. president and CEO Stuart Mitchell joins 11 other nonprofit and community organization leaders from throughout the New York Fed’s second district. Members will provide the Fed with a real-time view of the issues faced by a diverse set of communities across the district.

The first meeting was held this week, according to a statement.

“The New York Fed’s region is home to incredibly diverse populations,” said Anand Marri, vice president for outreach and education at the New York Fed. “The Community Advisory Group will offer critical, firsthand insight about the economic opportunities and challenges they are experiencing. This will fill knowledge gaps about how various groups are faring, which can inform our programs and research.”

The New York Fed has several other advisory councils, including ones focused on small business and agriculture, the regional economy and community depository institutions. The Community Advisory Group is unique because it focuses on understanding the economic needs and realities of individuals and households from a range of geographies, officials said.

Members were selected based on their experience and expertise, as well as their ability to represent specific communities such as youth, seniors, veterans, immigrants and rural populations.

PathStone is a private, non-profit, regional community development and human service organization providing services to farmworkers, low-income families and economically depressed communities throughout New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, Vermont, Virginia and Puerto Rico. The organization was founded in 1969.

Major changes coming to how your credit score is calculated – seattletimes.com

Major changes coming to how your credit score is calculated

by: Ken Sweet

NEW YORK (AP) — The math behind your credit score is getting an overhaul, with changes big enough that they might alter the behavior of both cautious spenders as well as riskier borrowers.

Most notably for those with high scores: Abiding by the golden rule of “don’t close your credit card accounts” may now hurt your standing. On the other side, those with low scores may benefit from the removal of civil judgments, medical debts and tax liens as factors.

 Beyond determining whether someone gets approved for a credit card, a credit score can affect what interest rate and what spending limit are offered.
The new method is being implemented later this year by VantageScore, a company created by the credit bureaus Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. It’s not as well-known as Fair Isaac Corp., whose FICO score is used for the vast majority of mortgages. But VantageScore handled 8 billion account applications last year, so if you applied for a credit card, that score was likely used to approve or deny you.

Using what’s known as trended data is the biggest change. The phrase means credit scores will take into account the trajectory of a borrower’s debts on a month-to-month basis. So a person who is paying down debt is now likely to be scored better than a person who is making minimum monthly payments but has been slowly accumulating credit card debt.

“This is a really big deal,” said John Ulzheimer, an expert in credit reports and credit scoring. Ulzheimer said taking trended data into account has long been considered by the credit score industry, but hasn’t been implemented on a meaningful scale. He expects more lenders to adopt it.

People with high credit scores may be affected the most, since the goal of trended data is to see warning signs long before a borrower actually gets into serious trouble.

 “When it comes to prime borrowers, you may not have bad behavior on your credit file, but a trajectory provides very powerful information,” said Sarah Davies, senior vice president for research, analytics and product development at VantageScore.

The change also shakes up the maxim that had people keeping open accounts they’d opened long ago. An important metric in calculating credit scores has been the portion of their available credit people are actually using. A person with $5,000 in credit card debt with a $50,000 limit across several cards could score better than someone with $2,000 in debt on a $10,000 limit because of that ratio.

But VantageScore will now mark a borrower negatively for having excessively large credit card limits, on the theory that the person could run up a high credit card debt quickly. Those who have prime credit scores may be hurt the most, since they are most likely to have multiple cards open. But those who like to play the credit card rewards program points game could be affected as well.

Taking civil judgments, medical debts and tax liens out of the equation comes after a 2015 agreement between the three credit bureaus and 31 state attorneys general. The argument was that civil judgments and tax liens —which can significantly hurt a person’s credit score — were often full of errors. Medical debt was being reported on a person’s credit report before there was time for insurance to reimburse.

People with those items on their credit reports now could see a bump of as much as 20 points. But it won’t help much if they also have negative marks like delinquencies and debts that have gone to collection.

Mortgages, though, won’t be affected. The government-owned mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac require a FICO score for eligibility. Because of their outsized influence on the market, few mortgage lenders use VantageScore.

Click here to read more…