By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
Ray Cabezas, owns a detached two-story house in a quiet Staten Island neighborhood thanks to his union. He learned that DC 37 offered a chance at home ownership through its Municipal Employees Housing Program while at a Local 376 general membership meeting.
“I was looking for a house when I heard about the union’s affordable housing program,” Cabezas said. A new Assistant Highway Repairer, Cabezas tapped his pension to make his dream of home ownership a reality. With help from MEHP, Cabezas invested in his family’s future and purchased their first home.
“I was paying over $1,200 a month for an apartment I had lived in for 25 years. Back then my rent was just $575 a month. Rents will always rise, so I felt it was time to buy,” said Cabezas. “We had a bidding war with eight other interested buyers, but because MEHP had our mortgage pre-approved, the owner, who was a builder, went with us. The program made a big difference in our getting this house.”
Launched a decade ago, The Municipal Employees Housing Program helps unionized public employees buy one- to four-family homes, condominiums or cooperative apartments in New York City and six surrounding counties.
“I feel better in my own house,” he said. The new house came with upgrades like a brand new kitchen with granite counters and stainless steel appliances, and central air for little more than what they paid in rent.
“I have more peace of mind. This is a better neighborhood and the whole family appreciates it,” said Cabezas.
DC 37’s annual housing fair is July 30 and MEHP representatives, and dozens of real estate professionals who offer mortgages, inspections, credit counseling, and other housing-related services will be there. MEHP helps with refinancing or reverse mortgages. The program also offers city workers a 5 percent set aside for affordable rentals listed at the Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development. MEHP also helps union members who may be homeless or victims of domestic violence find safe housing.
Additionally, union members who qualify may get grants of up to $15,000 through HPD’s HomeFirst down payment assistance program. Most DC37 members can save an additional $2,000 in legal fees on a property purchase by using a lawyer from DC 37’s Municipal Employees Legal Services, MELS.