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Landlord Ambassadors Help Bklyn Property Owners Save Affordable Housing

The HPD pilot program connects landlords with city resources to stabilize their financially distressed properties
Brownsville, BK Reader
The HPD pilot program connects landlords in Brownsville, Bed-Stuy and Bushwick with city resources to stabilize their financially distressed properties. Photo credit: Google Map

RiseBoro Community Partnership, a Bushwick-based community revitalization nonprofit, is on a mission to unleash the full potential of Brooklyn communities, and for them, it begins with affordable housing.

Since 2017, RiseBoro has been participating in the Landlord Ambassadors Program, an initiative launched by the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development and Enterprise Community Partners. The pilot program was designed to support landlords of smaller and midsize properties in Brownsville, Bushwick and Bedford Stuyvesant with city resources to maintain their distressed buildings while preserving affordability for their tenants.

RiseBoro, formerly known as Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, was founded in 1973 and has since steadily expanded its focus to offer a variety of social and family services, including education and employment initiatives, as well as youth and senior programs. Affordable housing development, management and preservation have become key issues for the organization.

"Our work can broadly be categorized as community development," said RiseBoro CEO Scott Short. "We're looking at poverty reduction as the complex issue that it is and trying to have influence over all the potential solutions. Affordable housing is a big component of that strategy and really the foundation to unleash the potential of communities to thrive, which is our mission."

As many of RiseBoro's initiatives focus on sustaining affordable housing, the nonprofit's involvement in the Landlord Ambassadors program is a perfect fit, RiseBoro's VP of Housing Emily Kurtz explained.

"The intent of this pilot was to identify landlords of smaller buildings who were having trouble maintaining their properties and get them access to city-financed services, which would then secure the affordability for the renters living in these buildings," said Kurtz.

Through the partnership with HPD, RiseBoro receives lists of landlords who are in jeopardy of losing their properties due to violations like unpaid water bills or taxes. Often, the landlords are unaware of these issues or do not have the resources to address them. 

RiseBoro has a designated landlord ambassador, Kyana Beech, who reaches out to the property owners to discuss with them the violations and how to remedy them. She works closely with HPD to get the landlords into loan programs that help pay off their debts or correct other violations affecting their properties.

Additionally, Beech also connects property owners to local resources including contractors, property managers, attorneys and title companies that can help them to stabilize and keep their buildings. The ultimate goal is to secure the property for the owners and to preserve the quality and affordability of the housing for the tenants.

"These affordable buildings and the renters are very vulnerable," said Kurtz. "The city is trying to secure the affordability for the renters living there by assisting the landlords, making sure they're maintaining their property appropriately."

As the pilot is slated to expire in June, HPD and Enterprise Community Partners are currently analyzing the effectiveness of the initiative, while trying to find new funding to establish the program permanently.

"We desperately want to continue the program," said Adam Phillips, senior project manager of special initiatives with HPD. "We're hoping that folks who are involved with the program reach out to their local councilmembers to advocate for the program. It's really impactful. It fills a gap that currently exists in the housing market."

RiseBoro has received growing demand for the service and will continue to provide it at least until the end of June.

"There's been a definite interest in the program from the landlords who have been flagged as being in violation," said Kurtz. "They really want to do the right thing, maintain their property and provide good housing. It's just so overwhelming for them to navigate the system."

To learn more about the Landlord Ambassador program and other RiseBoro initiatives, go here.