Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Neighborhood Housing Services

Full disclosure: I am Secretary of the Board of Directors for Neighborhood Housing Services of Waterbury, so you could argue that I'm biased about the organization. However, serving on their board has made me aware of and appreciative of the good work they do. Here's an overview.

Homebuyer Education and Counseling

For most people, it's not easy to transition from being a renter to being a buyer. It took me a couple of tries before I finally landed a mortgage. I understood the basic concept of home ownership, partly because my parents went from renting to owning when I was a kid, and partly because some of my friends had become homeowners, but the hard logistics of what you have to do to qualify for a mortgage and how to make sure you don't lose your home to foreclosure are things I learned as I went through the process. I can't imagine what it must be like for someone whose parents and grandparents and friends are all renters, who have no frame of reference at all for what is involved with a mortgage.

Neighborhood Housing Services, 161 North Main Street, Waterbury.
Photo courtesy of Neighborhood Housing Services.

Because property values in Waterbury are so low right now, it's a very affordable time to buy a house, perfect for first-time home buyers. Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) offers programs to help renters become buyers. The classes they offer teach would-be buyers about how the mortgage process works, how to qualify for a mortgage, and how to manage your finances after you become a homeowner. The class is offered in English and in Spanish.

NHS marching in The Gathering parade, May 2014.

Landlord Education

I've noticed that a lot of people become landlords because they think that it's an easy way to make money. Buy a house, rent it out, and watch the money flow in! The reality is a lot more complicated. Anyone who is thinking of becoming a landlord, or is a new landlord, or is finding the business to be a lot harder than they expected, should enroll in the landlord class offered by NHS.

One of several different types of classes offered by NHS.
Photo courtesy of Neighborhood Housing Services.

Foreclosure Assistance

Foreclosure Assistance, fortunately, is less in demand than it was a couple of years ago, but it is still a vital service offered by NHS. If you're having trouble making your mortgage payments, NHS can help.

Photo courtesy of Neighborhood Housing Services.

Financial Literacy

This is another important life skill that most people learn the hard way--or never learn at all. If your credit rating has been wrecked, or if you're just starting out and want to know how to build a good credit score, NHS can help. If you need help figuring out how to save up for a home or other major expense, NHS can help.

Photo courtesy of Neighborhood Housing Services.

Affordable Housing

NHS has recently ramped up its activities with developing affordable housing. Their new Executive Director, Kevin Taylor, is an architect who previously worked at Waterbury Development Corporation (WDC) overseeing various construction and rehab projects. Taylor is one of those Waterburians who loves this city and is dedicated to making it a great place to live. He is also a firm believer that everyone, no matter what their income level, deserves good housing.

Last month, NHS completed a new ten-unit affordable housing project (Mascoli Manor) on North Main Street, near Reed School. The apartments are attractive townhouses with ample off-street parking and a small field for gardens or for kids to play.

Mascoli Manor during the final stages of construction.
Photo courtesy of Neighborhood Housing Services.

NHS is preparing for its next development project, which will be even more impressive and beneficial to Waterbury. I can't tell you anything more right now, but I am very excited about it. Good things are happening!

Community Building and Engagement

This is a new activity for NHS, focused on building healthier and stronger communities by increasing resident engagement, developing resident leaders, strengthening resident-led associations, and sponsoring community activities. As part of this activity, NHS hosted a neighborhood block party after the ribbon-cutting ceremony at Mascoli Manor and is hosting an outdoor movie night at Reed School this Friday.

Booths at the Mascoli Manor block party.
Photo courtesy of Neighborhood Housing Services.

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