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'Your voice is needed': Affordable Housing Education Series Aims to Empower East New York Residents

The EMPOWER East New York affordable housing education event series is set to continue on July 29.

More than 60 community members recently attended an educational event aimed at empowering East New Yorkers around affordable housing issues. 

“Education is key. Until we can speak the language of policymakers and developers, it’s impossible to make demands of them,” said Ismene Speliotis, executive director of Mutual Housing Association of New York and featured speaker at the event.

EMPOWER East New York: Discovering the Keys to Affordable Housing was held in late June by Equity Platforms in partnership with, Totem, Local Development Corporation of East New York and NYC Mayor’s Public Engagement Office. 

The event featured a panel discussion with Speliotis, Bill Wilkins, executive director of LDC ENY, and Asia Thomas, director of organizing at Open New York, with remarks from Assembly Member Nikki Lucas. 

The discussion focused on the obstacles residents experience when obtaining affordable housing and ways in which affordable housing programming should be elevated to increase access. 

“We cannot be a first-class city if we have people living in second-class housing,” said Wilkins, who stressed the need to build housing more intentionally and to ensure the new buildings address the specific needs of the community they’re built in. 

Panel members also pointed to the need to make information and language around affordable housing more accessible so that community members are able to understand the process and advocate for their needs. 

Additional programming and community events that promote civic engagement, education and collaboration were also called for. 

“The conversation will continue with or without you. You have a decision to make, and your voice is needed,” said Thomas. 

Attendees also had the opportunity to use tablets to access Housing Connect and directly learn how to apply for affordable housing — an often confusing and convoluted system.

This was the second event in a series of community events. The series is set to continue on July 29, with EMPOWER: Tools to Empower Job Seekers and Entrepreneurs, according to a press release. For more information, click here