Big city real estate groups commit funding, assistance to struggling tenants

By Janaki Chadha

05/14/2020 05:01 AM EDT

A group of real estate developers and property owners have invested $4 million in a fund to assist those on the verge of homelessness, in advance of an anticipated surge in housing court cases when the state’s eviction moratorium ends this August.

The philanthropic fund, to be run by Enterprise Community Partners, will be distributed among housing and homelessness nonprofit organizations and put towards tenant counseling and other anti-eviction services. Several of the city’s biggest landlords and developers are involved in the effort, including the Related Companies, the LeFrak Organization and A&E Real Estate Holdings.

The fund, called Project Parachute, will go towards a group of providers that offer services through the city-administered Homebase program. These include financial counseling, assistance obtaining rental vouchers and public benefits and tenants’ rights education. Part of the aim is to focus resources towards groups that aren’t eligible for federal relief, such as undocumented immigrants, and help nonprofits that are expecting to be overloaded by a growing need for services in the coming months.

“We know that Homebase is a proven, cost-effective model to help tenants keep a roof over their head and get back on their feet,” said Donna Colonna, CEO of Services for the UnderServed, one of the service providers. “The extra funding pledged and the principles committed to will assist [the organization] in carrying out our mission at this crucial time.”

Other nonprofit organizations that will receive funding include CAMBA, HELP USA and RiseBoro Community Partnership.

Property owners who contributed to the effort pledged to “work with tenants impacted as a result of COVID on an individual basis to establish payment plans and waive fees.” The group of 41 firms and organizations also involves several affordable housing developers, including L&M Development Partners and Camber Property Group, and industry groups including the Real Estate Board of New York and the New York State Association for Affordable Housing.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week the state will extend its moratorium on evictions for those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic until August 20, but the state has yet to enact a more long-term fix for people who are unable to pay rent due to Covid-19-related job and income losses.

“As we now face one of the biggest economic, health, and housing crises in our lifetime, we commit to advocating for additional solutions, including federal funding for comprehensive rental assistance that will help ensure ongoing housing stability for both tenants and property owners,” Judi Kende, vice president and New York market leader of Enterprise Community Partners, said in a statement.

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