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City building more diversity into affordable housing campaign

The city is looking to give minority and women businesses a bigger role in saying who gets the keys to new affordable homes by training them to become qualified marketing agents.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is partnering with Goldman Sachs, LISC NYC, and Enterprise Community Partners to create Pathways to Opportunity, a two-phase initiative that aims to give those who need affordable housing the most a chance to be part of the city’s 10-year plan to build and preserve 300,000 homes.

The first phase of the plan is being funded with a $100,000 grant from Goldman Sachs. It aims to increase the supply of Minority-and-Women-Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBE) and nonprofits qualified to serve as marketing agents by preparing them to apply for HPD’s recently released Qualified Marketing Agent Request for Qualifications (RFQ).

Phase two aims to create affordable housing marketing career pathways for low-wealth New Yorkers, particularly those currently living in affordable housing, through a workforce development program. The program will be geared towards granting access to employment in marketing, affordable housing, and LIHTC compliance. Research and fundraising are underway for phase two, which is anticipated to launch after the first phase one trainings are complete.

RODNEYSE BICHOTTE HERMELYN

“For tenants and homeowners across the city, tomorrow brings too many unknowns. Racial disparities are especially pronounced in housing, and in Brooklyn we are seeing unprecedented housing insecurity,” said Assembly member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, chair of the Assembly Subcommittee on Oversight of Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBEs).

“Pathways to Opportunity will prepare M/WBEs and nonprofits to become qualified affordable housing marketing agents for the city’s housing lotteries. With more diverse marketing agents, affordable housing will be more accessible to the people that often need it the most. I thank HPD and partners for their hard work on this initiative.”

While the City finances the development of affordable housing and sets forth the policies and procedures for marketing and determining eligibility for affordable apartments, the developers of that housing must hire marketing agents to conduct the Housing Connect lottery, lease-up, and sales processes for each project.

HPD released a Qualified Marketing Agent RFQ in September to develop a qualified list that developers of City-sponsored affordable housing must choose from.

 Leading up to the initial April 9 RFQ application deadline, Pathways to Opportunity will invite interested M/WBEs and nonprofits with limited experience to attend a virtual panel on What it takes to successfully operate a Marketing Agent Business, where experienced marketing industry experts will share tips on bidding, staffing, technology, client service and other topics.

Participants can then apply to receive free training and certification on HPD/HDC Marketing and Housing Connect, Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Compliance, and Fair Housing.

A committee made up of representatives from LISC, Enterprise, and HPD will review the applications to select M/WBEs and nonprofits for the initiative. This will support the creation of new M/WBEs and nonprofits to compete for the growing number of housing requiring marketing or allow existing entities to expand their existing business.

LOUISE CAROLL

“There is a growing demand for marketing agents as this administration continues to create and preserve affordable housing at a record pace, even in the midst of the pandemic,” said HPD Commissioner Louise Carroll. “Investing in M/WBEs and nonprofits that want to capitalize on this growing industry is the right thing to do – not only to strengthen and build the capacity of our mission-driven partners, but also to ensure equitable access to affordable housing for all New Yorkers.”

“Goldman Sachs is thrilled to support this important work,” said Margaret Anadu, head of the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group. “The New York City affordable housing industry is crucial both for the housing it provides for families and the significant contribution to our local economy. Given that, it is a critical moment for all of us – public, private, and non-profit partners – to ensure it is as diverse as possible with equal opportunity for M/WBEs to drive us forward and build back better.”

“When M/WBE businesses and nonprofits serve a leading role in the affordable housing sector, we’re all better off for it,” said Valerie White, executive director of LISC NYC. “The individuals behind these businesses and organizations have practical solutions and expertise, often rooted in life experience. That is why it’s so important we create opportunity for them to participate in the sector as qualified marketing agents. We’re proud to partner with HPD on this important initiative to continue to build opportunity for M/WBEs and nonprofits and ensure their voices are central to efforts to enhance the city’s affordable housing sector moving forward.”

“We must ensure that no community is left behind as our city tackles the racial inequities exposed and magnified by Covid-19,” said Lorraine Collins, Senior Director, Enterprise Community Partners. “Pathways to Opportunity is a groundbreaking means to ensure that M/WBEs and low-income New Yorkers can take part in the economic opportunity created by the city’s affordable housing production.”

Altogether, Pathways to Opportunity seeks to offer training to 40 different M/WBEs and nonprofits to equip them to submit competitive applications to become qualified marketing agents. 

Each M/WBE or nonprofit who is accepted into the program will be eligible to send up to three staff members to the training. In the context of COVID-19 and in an economy putting so many vulnerable New Yorkers at risk, creating fair and equitable access to affordable housing is more important than ever.

In November, the City announced an equitable ownership requirement to increase the role of M/WBEs and non-profits on affordable housing developed on City-owned sites, which are now included in all of HPD’s RFPs going forward.

And last month, Mayor de Blasio announced that the NYC Acquisition Fund will now exclusively finance housing led by M/WBE and nonprofit developers with a minimum 51 percent ownership stake.

MAGGIE AUSTIN

“I applaud this important prequalification initiative which will helps M/WBEs build capacity in the high-demand field of affordable housing,” said Maggie D. Austin, Director of the Mayor’s Office of M/WBEs and Senior Advisor.

“Diversity does not just happen. We have to design and implement initiatives such as this one to bring about equity and access to opportunity.”

M/WBEs and nonprofits interested in the Pathways to Opportunity initiative should visit the Marketing Agent Training webpage learn more and apply by February 11, 2021 for the first round. Additional rounds and application deadlines will also be posted to the website.

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