Westchester rolls out plans to combat homelessness

County Executive George Latimer announcing homelessness programs.

WHITE PLAINS – In an effort to stabilize communities and families in Westchester impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, County Executive George Latimer is announcing the Community Build Back Program.  The four-pronged umbrella program has four programs under it.  Two utilize HUD money, the RED STOP Eviction Project and the RED Rent HELP Project, and two separate ones utilize $10 million dollars in CARES ACT money the Blue Priority Homeowners Initiative and the Blue Small Business Landlord Initiative.

Latimer said “As a result of COVID-19 and the impact on the economy, both the federal government and New York State issued moratoriums on tenant evictions.  Those moratoriums are coming to an end and unemployment benefits have been greatly diminished.  The Community Build Back Program will enable families to stay in their homes as we head into the fall/winter season.”

The RED STOP Eviction Project utilizes federal HUD funds and will provide up to 4 months of rental or utility arrears for tenants facing eviction or shut off as long as they can demonstrate that their financial hardship is due to COVID.  Tenants must be within 21 days of eviction, must demonstrate the ability to pay their rent going forward, and must live in a Westchester Urban County Consortium municipality.  Assistance is available through select non-profits including Westchester Residential Opportunities, Community Housing Innovations, Washingtonville Housing Alliance, and Choice of New Rochelle.

RED Rent HELP Project – “moving forward” also utilizes federal HUD funds and will provide up to 12 months of rental assistance for families impacted by COVID but focus on households where the tenants worked in industries closed until Phase 4, or who worked for a business that no longer exists. RED Rent HELP Project will be run by the County’s Planning Department.

TheBlue Priority Homeowners Initiative uses $2.5 million dollars and focuses on homeowners facing foreclosure.  That part of the Program, which is estimated to help 325 households in the County, and assists them with up to 4 months of mortgage / cooperative arrears.  Homeowners must show that COVID has negatively impacted their ability to pay their mortgage.  The homeowner will also have to show that they were up to date on payments as of March 2020.  This part of the Program also runs until the end of the year and will be administered through select nonprofits including Westchester Residential Opportunities, Community Housing Innovations, Washingtonville Housing Alliance, HDSW (Human Development Services of Westchester), and the Bridge Fund.

Westchester Residential Opportunities, Inc. Executive Director Marlene Zarfes said “This eviction prevention program will be a lifesaver for so many County residents at risk of becoming homeless.  Westchester Residential Opportunities is proud to partner with the County to help keep people safely in their homes and keep families together.”

For the Blue Small Business Landlord Initiative, $7.5 million dollars has been earmarked to assist approximately 2,400 households in the County by working directly with their landlords and bringing their rent up to date. The program runs from now until the end of 2020 and can cover up to 75% of back rent for up to 4 months of rent for landlords who can show that their tenants were up to date in March, but have since not been able to pay their rent due to COVID.  This program, to be done by lottery, will assist landlords who own between 4 and 20 units.  Blue Small Business Landlord Initiative will be run by the County’s Planning Department.

Building & Realty Institute (BRI) of Westchester and the Mid-Hudson Region Executive Director Tim Foley said “We’re thankful for the creative leadership shown by Westchester County’s Community Build Back Program, and the focus on supplying urgently-needed aid to struggling tenants, landlords, and property owners alike. The landlords and property owners of the Building & Realty Institute have been checking in on our at-risk tenants, offering flexibility and payment plans on their rent, and trying to be as accommodating as possible to good tenants who lost their jobs or lost income due to the COVID pandemic. But as the public health and economic emergency stretches on with no end-date in sight, we need government to step up to stabilize our housing situation. With this four-prong approach, Westchester County is clearly doing so.”

Latimer expressed concern for landlords, saying “Landlords, many times, are small business owners who depend on the rent from their properties to support their own families.  We realize the chaos that nonpayment can put into their lives and their communities.  The last thing we want to see is a landlord lose their property over nonpayment.  That benefits no one.”

Board of Directors of the Apartment Owners Advisory Council Member Carol Danziger said “I am thankful to Westchester County for setting up these programs aimed at helping tenants and landlords during this crisis. I’m a second-generation owner of a family-run small apartment building, like so many small business owners, COVID-19 took any financial problems we had and made them that much worse. After the financial hardships and unimaginable personal losses we’ve experienced, we are still here for our tenants if the needs arise, especially if anyone is struggling. But since we do basically everything ourselves and have no staff, there was no relief for us under the CARES Act previously, and we were quickly running out of options and flexibility. These subsidies and stabilization funds will help us remain steady while the public health emergency continues this fall.”

Fact Sheets and Applications (English and Spanish) for the programs are available on the County’s website at www.westchestergov.com/HousingHelp.



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