Some decent landlords are at it again, this time coming together to keep New Yorkers in their homes. Over 40 owners of market rate and affordable apartment buildings have teamed up with a network of nonprofit organizations to form Project Parachute: a civic partnership aiming to protect those in danger of losing their homes due to the Covid-19 crisis. These property owners have made a philanthropic donation to support community based rental assistance programs. In addition, they have pledged to work with tenants on an individual basis to establish payment plans and waive fees to avoid evictions, and to communicate and connect tenants with assistance and counseling services.
That all sounds lovely, but how will it work? A $4 million dollar initial investment was made by the property owners to create a philanthropic fund. The fund is being independently managed by Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit organization who will work with tenants and community based organizations to avoid evictions and increase housing stability. Impacted tenants will be able to access assistance from Homebase, a homelessness prevention network with over 26 locations across the greater New York area. Services include financial counseling, tenants' rights education, and benefit advocacy. The program will be administered autonomously and will be blind to where tenants live. The hope is to meet the needs of the communities hit the hardest, especially those who have limited or no access to government resources, including undocumented immigrants.
Homebase providers across NYC are excited for the funding and collaboration. Donna Colonna at Services for the Underserved (one such provider in Manhattan) says "We know Homebase is a proven, cost-effective model to help tenants keep a roof over their head and get back on their feet. The extra funding and pledged principles committed will assist us in carrying out our mission at a crucial time." Joanne Oplustil of CAMBA, another Homebase provider, praises the partnership between property owners and nonprofits, saying it "renews our faith in the strength, caring, and commitment New Yorkers have for each other."
It's definitely a step in the right direction, but this cautiously hopeful New Yorker wonders if it is a stop-gap or longer-term solution. I applaud the recognition that our undocumented workers are in dire need, without the chance for unemployment. The ideas are so great, but there are a lot of organizations involved which could mean a lot of money being lost to overhead and not going directly to tenants in need. Though I do think the solutions are in job training and advocacy vs. simply paying someone's rent. The initiative is brand new so only time will tell.
The biggest make-or-break detail of the project seems to be the actions of the landlords going forward. Will they work to keep their tenants in place or is it all for image? If they keep this oath, then the families will have the breathing room for the initiatives to help, and to do the work to achieve stability. But only if they're supported. Here's hoping we are seeing the rebirth of the kind landlord, and the ripple affect that will bring to our NYC community. I'm proud to be a member of the Real Estate Board of New York who is working with Project Parachute, so I hope to bring you updates on the initiative's success for years to come.