By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
“I was tired of renting an apartment that only made the rich richer, while I kept getting poorer,” said School Coordinator Robert Cameron. The Local 372 member didn’t think he could ever afford to buy, though he read in the Public Employee Press stories about union members who did.
“I would daydream that one day I’d own,” said the 30-year Dept. of Education veteran. “But I don’t make a $90,000 or $100,000 a year salary.”
“At an MEHP seminar, I heard the director Ruth Pena say, ‘Ownership is possible. I am here to help,’ I knew she was talking to me,” Cameron said. “Ms. Pena walked me through the process step by step. The union’s broad range of services helped me in so many ways. They calculated what I could afford and helped me stick to a budget.”
Cameron attended a union housing fair and met MEHP representatives, along with dozens of real estate professionals who offer mortgages, inspections, credit counseling, and other housing-related services.
MEHP matched Cameron with Wells Fargo Bank which gave him a 4.25 percent interest rate.
“I discussed it with my principal,” he said. “My principal told me ‘Go for it!’”
“I was so nervous. I didn’t want to be rejected, so I asked the bank to pre-approve my mortgage before I found a place,” he said. “And they did.”
DC 37 also helped Cameron repair his credit. He qualified for a substantial grant through HomeFirst, and used a MELS lawyer to close the deal.
Union members who qualify may get grants of up to $15,000 through HPD’s HomeFirst down payment assistance program. Most DC 37 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.
MEHP helps with mortgage refinancing and 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. The ne3xt DC 37 housing fair is Saturday July 30 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the union’s lower Manhattan headquarters.
Two months before Cameron’s rent shot to $1,600, MEHP helped him purchase a two-bedroom Yonkers co-op. “I never thought in a million years I would have this and my mortgage and maintenance are less than what I paid to rent a small one-bedroom in the Bronx,” he said.
“I look around and I get goose bumps. I always wanted to own and DC 37 made it possible,” Cameron said. “DC 37 is just the best union ever!”