BY ANGELA MATUA
Employees from a local bank put on their hard hats on Friday to help build a home for a family in Hollis.
Partnering with Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that builds affordable housing for low-income families, Amalgamated Bank is also giving its customers a chance to donate to the nonprofit with its “Donate the Change” campaign.
For every purchase using a bank-issued debit card that is $10 and over, the bank will donate 10 cents to Habitat for Humanity NYC. Keith Mestrich, the bank’s president and CEO, said Amalgamated Bank has a long history of providing affordable housing to New York City residents.
“Our bank for a long time has done a lot for affordable housing, really going back to the ’20s when the Parent Union, which owns our bank, probably built more affordable housing in the city than any other entity in the history of New York and so this is just part of our mission,” Mestrich said.
Habitat for Humanity NYC is working to build 12 single-family homes in Queens in neighborhoods including Hollis, Rosedale, St. Albans, Springfield Gardens and Queens Village and are working with the New York City Housing Authority to buy and repair another 15 houses in the borough.
“It’s a very unique program within New York City,” said Matthew Dunbar, vice president of government relations and advocacy for Habitat for Humanity NYC. “New York has a 32 percent homeownership rate which is extremely low. It’s about the exact opposite of the rest of the country. So our work is critical and there’s very few, if any folks currently building homeownership opportunities.”
Serina Sacasa, who lives in the Bronx with her three children, will soon become a homeowner in Laurelton. Sacasa applied to the program a year and a half ago and will be moving into her home in November.
“About a year and a half ago I decided it’s time for us to get a bigger place,” Sarcasa said. “New York City is a hard market for housing and my kids wanted a home, they wanted a backyard so I researched and found some things but they didn’t really work out. Then I found Habitat. They provide education courses so you’re not just going into the homeownership process completely blind and you also have to give a little sweat equity.”
According to Dunbar, homeowners accepted by the Habitat for Humanity program must spend 250 hours building their home and helping to build other homes purchased by Habitat for Humanity. They must also have a credit score of 650 or higher. Homeowners receive a low-interest mortgage and help with every step of the homeownership process.
The construction in Hollis will be completed sometime in the fall and another family will be able to call themselves homeowners.
“Habitat is great,” Sarcasa said. “I’m just glad that there are programs to combat the housing crisis.”