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Keys to the castles! D’town bigs offer affordable-housing guidance - Brooklyn Paper

Keys to the castles! D’town bigs offer affordable-housing guidance

Stay the course: Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo talks about how workshops to teach people the ropes of affordable housing lotteries will stabilize Downtown and its environs.
Photo by Jason Speakman

A group of politicos, activists, and real estate industry types wants to make it easier to win the housing lottery Downtown.

One thousand one hundred below-market-rate apartments are slated to go on the market in the neighborhood during the next three years, according to the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, which is joining other Downtown movers and shakers to host a series of workshops guiding Brooklynites through the application process. Tucker Reed, president of the Partnership, a pro-business group, says the effort is meant to ensure everybody gets a fair shot at the coveted real estate.

“Getting these units built is not enough,” Reed said. “We also have to make sure local families have access to these units.”

Applying is difficult and minor errors, such as using correction fluid on the paperwork or listing a child on an application that has been listed on another parent’s, can get your form tossed, the group said. The process is so fickle some buildings end up with fewer applicants than set-aside apartments, Reed said.

“These small and often fixable problems have become so common that developers sometimes don’t get enough eligible applicants to fill their affordable-housing lottery,” Reed said.

Another issue the workshops are set to tackle is financial literacy. People who are selected by the lottery, which is run by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, still have to pass a credit check before they get the keys to their new pads. The spokesman for a major area developer said the rules make for a catch-22.

“You have to be poor and have good credit in order to qualify,” said Thomas Montvel-Cohen, a rep for the City Point project, which includes 125 so-called “affordable” units. “Unfortunately that’s often a terrible contradiction.”

The workshops are meant to help would-be renters clean up their credit scores, too.

Half of the below-market-rate apartments coming online are supposed to give preference to prospective renters already living in or near Downtown, which has experienced an explosion of luxury housing and an influx of chain stores since a 2004 rezoning opened it up to sky-high development. A local pol said the outreach should be a stabilizing force.

“This is for Brooklyn,” said Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo (D–Fort Greene). “This is so that Brooklyn can stay in Brooklyn.”

The first workshop is scheduled for Thursday, at Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Clinton Hill.

Affordable housing workshops

Hosted by Churches United for Fair Housing at Brown Memorial Baptist Church [484 Washington Ave. between Fulton Street and Gates Avenue in Clinton Hill, (718) 360–2906, www.cuffh.tumblr.com]. July 31 at 6:30 pm.

Hosted by Fifth Avenue Committee at Hanson Place Seventh-day Adventist Church (88 Hanson Pl. between South Portland Avenue and South Oxford Street in Prospect Heights, www.fifthave.org). Nov. 13 at 6:30 pm.

Hosted by Mutual Housing Association of New York at Pratt Institute (200 Willoughby Ave. between Hall Street and Classon Avenue in Clinton Hill, www.mutualhousingny.org). Feb. 4, 2015 at 6:30 pm.

Hosted by Pratt Area Community Council at Ingersoll Community Center (177 Myrtle Ave. between Prince and Navy streets in Fort Greene, www.pacc.publishpath.com). June 10, 2015 at 6:30 pm.

Hosted by Churches United for Fair Housing at Church of the Sacred Heart (30 Clermont Ave. between Park and Flushing avenues in Clinton Hill, www.cuffh.tumblr.com). October 6, 2015 at 6:30 pm.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.

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