Photo Credit: Ultranauts, NY Times

As a mission-driven, community-based bank, we prioritize our neighbors and the unique financial needs of the Bronx and Harlem. Since the day we opened our doors in the South Bronx over thirteen years ago, we have been grateful for the partnership of many small businesses and values-aligned organizations, including some of New York City’s oldest and most reputable nonprofits.

When COVID-19 hit, we responded by supporting our small business and nonprofit partners when they needed it most. Hours after the CARES Act passed in April of this year, our lending team got to work to assist organizations with their applications for a Payment Protection Program (PPP) loan.

We are proud to report that as of this month, we secured 360 PPP loans–valued at $86.8 million–for small businesses and nonprofits in the New York City area.  With these funds, organizations retained over 5,000 jobs.

 At the height of the lockdown, we helped Callen Lorde Community Center– a primary care center dedicated to serving the LGBTQ and homeless communities–secure a PPP loan that allowed them to continue their critical work on the frontlines of New York City’s battle against COVID-19. Our partnership helped them retain 80 of their employees, all while running a temporary hospital out of a hotel in Queens.

Additionally, our lending team supported other major nonprofits organizations like Grand Street Settlement–a social services agency that helps thousands of New Yorkers–and The Forward–one of New York’s oldest Jewish media publications. In total, we secured PPP loans for 53 nonprofits valued at $35 million, funding that they otherwise may not have received if they had gone to a larger bank.

But we didn’t stop there. We also partnered with values-aligned companies that are revolutionizing the business world. We take particular satisfaction in our work with Ultranauts, a company that mainly employ autistic workers for technology jobs.

With 75 percent of its workforce on the autistic spectrum, Ultranauts uses a unique set of operational policies and practices. Recently featured in The New York Times, their remote work model and unique accommodations have become a model for businesses looking to foster inclusion. And yet, pivoting to 100 percent remote working could not shield them from the economic downturn caused by the global pandemic. Ultranauts lost business as their clients made cuts to cope with the impact. To cover these unexpected costs, they partnered with us to secure a PPP loan that allowed them to adapt to the changing market, and soon, they were flourishing once again. Ultranaut acquired new clients and has plans to expand its workforce from 90 to 200 employees in the next two years.

We are proud to support organizations that, like us, are working to build an economy that includes and nurtures every individual’s talents. We are proud to help small businesses and nonprofits continue their work during this historic time.

If your small business or nonprofit requires financial support during this time, we can help you secure a lending option that best suits your organization. Do not hesitate to contact us at 718-879-5000. And we can set up a small business checking account or a nonprofit checking account so that you keep your money local, investing in communities in New York City that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Check out the article about Ultranauts in The New York Times. Read about our work with Callen Lorde Community Center, Grand Street Settlement, and The Forward. Open a small business checking account today.

Photo Credit: The New York Times

With over 20,000 patients across the city, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center has provided outpatient health care to New York City’s LGBTQ and homeless community for over 50 years. So, when COVID-19 infections in New York City spiked in early March and the emergency rooms and hospital beds were overflowing, Charles King, the CEO of Housing Works, knew who to call. Wendy Stark, the Executive Director of Callen-Lorde, quickly took him up on his proposition to work together.

“We quickly pivoted to be part of the city’s front-line health care response. And under very dire circumstances, our staff turned a hotel into a field hospital to serve COVID patients. We’ve needed more staff than we thought because people were sicker than we expected,” says Wendy.

In a matter of hours, Housing Works and Callen-Lorde converted a 133-room hotel in Queens into a hospital, pharmacy, and testing center. In addition to managing their telemedicine program for current patients, the Callen-Lorde team worked day and night to support the influx. And they were running out of money. The volume of their services increased, but payment and government support did not.

When the SBA CARES Act funding became available, Wendy immediately applied for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) with a large financial institution; they were not successful. Three days before the SBA portal opened for the second round Wendy held an all-team meeting to announce that Callen-Lorde had no choice but to furlough 80 employees— that’s when one of their employees referred them to us.

“It’s been incredibly emotional. The Spring Bank team worked over the weekend to help us secure the PPP loan, and by Monday morning, I delivered happy news to the team that we did not have to furlough anyone right now,” says Wendy. “We had a staff call with the Spring Bank team to celebrate.”

The PPP loan provides Callen-Lorde with two months of funding and time to secure longer-term fiscal support as their team continues to work, day and night. The transformation of the health care system, one that is accessible for all New Yorkers, is also of the highest priority for Wendy.

“People have talked about this moment as an equalizer. It’s not. COVID-19 has impacted people of color, and people with less access to ongoing services most acutely,” says Wendy. “We need a centralized, single-payer, unified system that works to the benefit of our entire society. We need a total transformation.”

Callen-Lorde and Housing Works continue to operate the working hospital at the hotel in Queens. They plan to serve as many people as they can for as long as they can. Partnerships with other health centers, affordable housing providers, and community-based organizations have been crucial to their journey. We are humbled and grateful to be one of those partners.

“As a result of COVID-19, we are now connected with a financial institution oriented to serve people who are underbanked. Our overnight partnership with Spring Bank shows the beautiful way a community can organize during a crisis. It’s important that we raise our voices together,” says Wendy.

Raise your voice on behalf of Callen-Lorde by donating to their emergency fund. Read a feature piece about Callen-Lorde in the New York Times. Learn more about their COVID-19 services. Read about PPP Loan forgiveness on our website.

Bragging Big this B Corp Month

 

UnCommon Goods quote for B Corp Month

 

We get big-time bragging rights. Our clients make it so easy. As the first B Corp bank in New York City, we are proud to be the financial institution many B Corps in the city choose to trust with their accounts, borrowing needs and programs for their employees. And, to launch our B Corp month celebrations, we are excited to exercise our bragging rights about a unique Brooklyn-based B Corp, Uncommon Goods.

One of the first online marketplaces for makers to sell their crafts, homewares, and customizable gift options Uncommon Goods offers products that meet the highest standards for design and social responsibility. In fact, they created a Vendor Code of Conduct, which outlines their commitment to protecting animal life, fair and equal pay, and sustainable supply chains-to which every vendor is held accountable. And they offer gifts you can’t find anywhere else. Some of our favorites include their New York Times Custom Front Page Puzzle and made-in-Brooklyn, Bee Knee’s Salted Honey.

Twenty years in with over 200 employees, Uncommon Goods boasts a reputation for supporting and scaling the small businesses of hundreds of artisans with thousands of packages shipped daily from Brooklyn across the country. And year over year, they are equally acknowledged as being a great place to work.

When the UnCommon Goods HR team learned about our Employee Opportunity Loan program that provides access to capital and free financial counseling, they knew it was another tool to support their employee-first culture.

“We weren’t offering an employee loan program or financial counseling for our team. Spring Bank’s program can help our team create healthy financial habits, build savings, and it caters to all employees across departments. It was an attractive opportunity for us,” says Jennifer Coleman, PR & Affiliate Marketing at UnCommon Goods.

Our Employee Financial Empowerment Program serves as a tech-enabled comprehensive financial health tool. The Spring Bank Employee Opportunity Loan provides lip to $3000 with no minimum credit score requirement and built-in savings and credit building features. And, the Trust Plus program from Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners gives employees access to free, unlimited, and personalized financial counseling via phone, Skype, or text.

Just a few months after the launch at Uncommon Goods, fourteen employees have taken advantage of the Financial Empowerment Program.

“So far, we’ve heard great things from employees about the experience with the financial counseling and loan program. And working with Spring Bank as a fellow B Corp, is important to us, too,” says Jennifer. “The biggest reason people apply to work with us is because we are a Certified B Corp. The B Corp ethos is part of our culture. We attract top talent who are interested in civic engagement,volunteerism, and who want to contribute to what we are building together,” says Jennifer Coleman, PR & Affiliate Marketing Manager at UnCommon Goods.

In addition to offering paid volunteer days, and double the federal minimum wage as starting pay for hourly team members, UnCommon Goods has been an active supporter for paid family leave laws. Named as a “Business Champion” by Family Values at Work, Founder & CEO Dave Bolotsky, advocated for mandated paid time off for new parents, caretakers of ill loved ones.

“We offer 12 weeks of paid time off for primary caregivers and gender-neutral family leave,” says Jennifer. “And we are committed to offering a livable wage for our employees.”

Lucky us to have values-aligned partners like Uncommon Goods who use their business as a vehicle for social and environmental good, and community-building.

We are proud to celebrate B Corp month with UnCommon Goods, our other partners in the Employee Loan Program, Greyston Bakery, Crave Fishbar, and Pistici restaurant, and the 150+ other B Corps in New York City.

Read more about the UnCommon Goods story. Get the details about our Employee Financial Empowerment Program and learn about other B Corps who participate.  Request more information about our Employee Opportunity Loan.

 

Governor Cuomo Announces a 2020 Statewide Proposal for CDFIs

At the beginning of this new decade, we shared our 2020 vision: To continue to explore ways we can invest our dollars responsibly, so more people have access to the financial tools they need to build wealth. Thankfully, we aren’t standing alone in this work. We proudly share our mission of financial inclusion with the 83 other US Treasury Certified Community Development Financial Institution Funds (CDFl’s)– mission-driven financial institutions, banks, credit unions, and nonprofits–in New York State. And, Governor Cuomo does too.

Governor Cuomo recently announced the “21st Proposal of his 2020 State of the State: Expanding Access to Safe and A/fordable Financial Services.” In partnership with CDFls, his proposal includes the following strategies:

  • $25 million in new funding over five years to increase access to affordable financial products in underserved communities across New YorkState through, New York’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI)
  • The launch of a statewide “Office of Financial Inclusion and Empowerment” as a single-stop provider of financial services and providers across housing, student loan, debt, and general financial literacy
  • The expansion of access to safe and affordable banking services, credit and financial education, particularly for women and communities of color, typically excluded from the current financial systems.

To execute these strategies, Governor Cuomo proposes to work with CDFls, who, like us, are often the sole providers of banking and other financial products and services in low-income communities. Under the Governor’s proposal, participating CDFls will leverage this funding, providing upwards of $300 million in targeted investment in underserved communities in New York for consumers, affordable housing, and small businesses.
Governor Cuomo’s vision includes expanding access to low-cost bank accounts to low-income New Yorkers who often find that the only accessible banking service in their communities are high-cost check cashers who take huge finance fees out of people’s paychecks. According to the FDIC, approximately 25 percent of New York households do not have bank accounts or seldom use one and rely on costly non-bank services for their financial activities. Expanding financial literacy education and access to microcredit for small businesses is also part of the proposal.
In a press release announcing his strategies, Governor Cuomo acknowledged the prevalence of exploitation by predatory lenders in low-income communities in New York:

“We’ve made significant strides expanding access to banking services for low income New Yorkers, but too many people still live in banking deserts,” Governor Cuomo said. “As a result, these New Yorkers often turn to costly check-cashing services or take out illegal predatory payday loans because they can’t access affordable small business loans at community banks. These sweeping proposals will provide New Yorkers with the services they need to build their credit, improve financial literacy, and take charge of their economic futures – helping build a fairer and stronger New York.”

Linda MacFarlane, the Executive Director of CDFI, Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region and chair of the New York State CDFI Coalition of which we are a proud member, has been discussing the proposal with the Governor’s office, the New York State Department of Financial Services and Empire State Development Corp. and has “high hopes” for the Governor’s new proposal.

We do too. We are proud to serve New York City as one of 83 CDFIs in the state who helped shape the New York State CDFI Fund to expand access to safe and affordable products. Creating access to credit and wealth-building financial tools for communities typically excluded is why we headquartered in the Bronx—and why we continue to explore ways in which to serve New York City as a mission-driven, ethical bank.

We invite you to join us in the mission. 

Register for this year’s NY State CDFI Conference in Albany, March 30-31st. You will learn more about how you can join CDFIs in making a difference every day in New York, State. Invest your dollars locally with us. Open a Green Checking account with us today. When you bank in your community, you support the credit and wealth-building of your neighbors and local businesses.

Read our 2020 Vision and follow us on LinkedIn, where we share stories about what it means to be an ethical bank, and our vision for a shared and durable prosperity for all.

We are proud to serve the community of Harlem at our branch, just down the block from Frederick Douglass Circle.

“The Harlem Community is filled with a lot of history and culture. Many of the business owners know each other, and they’re always surprised when they bump into each other at Spring Bank to find out they also bank with us,” says Jason Ohene, our Relationship Manager.

Josefa Ruiz, our Harlem Branch Manager, recently helped a local business owner of a hardware store on 116th in Harlem move his accounts because he wanted a more personalized experience. Plus, the fees at his big bank continued to increase. He was ready to move his accounts to a smaller financial institution in his neighborhood.

“We work with many entrepreneurs in Harlem. They are conscious about the impact of their dollars and don’t want to put their hard-earned dollars with big banks who invest in fossil fuels and other exploitative practices,” says Josefa. “Many people bank with us because we are a B Corp, as well.”

As an ethical bank, the first B Corp bank in New York City, we take great pride in belonging to a community like Harlem. And as a small business ourselves, it’s been our pleasure to serve other small businesses.  Jason views his role—as the Relationship Manager at a community bank in Harlem as an opportunity to be a resource.

My focus is to help small businesses thrive, and I try to do so by providing unmatched direct personalized service to our small business customers.  I always work to serve as a resource and would never want to leave them feeling like they’re left out in a “banking abyss” with no viable support,” says Jason.

“It’s a very tight-knit community here,” Josefa says, echoing Jason. “And we have the privilege of knowing our neighbors, and to support their banking needs personally.”

Let us help you meet your banking needs. Visit our Harlem branch (2049 Frederick Douglass Blvd, New York, NY 10026) to say hello to our team. Let us know how we can help you reach your financial goals and grow your vision. We will do our best to help you get there. Contact our Harlem Branch Manager, Josefa Ruiz, for more information about Spring Bank at (718) 879-5110. Learn more about our mission in a recent blog piece: For the Financial Inclusion of New York City: Why We Exist  

 

When we opened our doors in the Bronx over twelve years ago, we did it with Ariva, a community-based, nonprofit organization. We have been on this journey together. Not only do we share headquarters at our Bronx offices on 167th street, but we also share a mission to strengthen financial stability and expand the financial inclusion of  New Yorkers.

Ariva provides free tax preparation and free financial counseling to low-income residents of New York City. In December, Ariva received one of eight designations from the Department of Consumer Affair’s Office of Financial Empowerment as a New York City Financial Empowerment Center—one of two in the Bronx—and we are, of course, excited to share this news.

“As a New York City Financial Empowerment Center, we can extend our reach and better serve our clients. It also adds a new dimension to our work and the impact we make,” says Irene Baldwin, Executive Director of Ariva.

Since 2003, Ariva has prepared free tax returns for over 100,000 clients, returning more than $150 million in total refunds. Returns vary in dollar amount, and many of Ariva’s clients return year after year. They often count on their tax return to support their annual household income. Eighty-eight percent of Ariva’s clients earn less than $30,000 annually; Ariva knows that even a small refund can prevent one of their clients from using predatory financial services and can help a family start saving.

\Witnessing families gain confidence in their financial knowledge, make more informed financial decisions, and increase their financial security are a few of the reasons Ariva’s hardworking staff and committed volunteers know their work matters. We are proud to host one of their year-round tax preparation sites and one of their financial counselors in our branch. For Irene, the host matters:

“Spring Bank is the perfect host. We share values and mission. As one of the only banks in the neighborhood, people come to the Bronx branch for their financial needs. We provide complimentary services and offerings and refer clients to each other“.

Ariva’s services are available to all. Their winter hours for their free tax preparation program are (69 E. 167th Street)

  • Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays: 4 to 7:30 pm
  • Wednesdays: 12 to 7 pm
  • Saturdays: 10 am to 4 pm

The hours for free one-on-one counseling are: (until April 30th)

  • Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays: 11 am to 7:00 pm
  • Fridays: 2 to 5 pm
  • Saturdays: 9 am to 5 pm

Clients are invited to walk-in, and no appointments are needed. Read this checklist to make sure you bring the proper paperwork before arriving.  For more information about Ariva’s mission, services and locations across New York City, visit www.ariva.org

Pictured Above: Legally Addictive, one of our very successful small business clients in New York City, with our CEO and CLO

Just a few weeks ago, we hosted a ‘Bronx Small Business Resource Fair.’ The staff of New York City’s Office of Small Business Services (SBS) joined us at our Bronx headquarters.  Dozens of local businesses and budding entrepreneurs attended to connect with them and to learn how to grow their organizations. We were thrilled to partner with Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson to host this event.

The purpose of the gathering was for city agencies to offer critical information to small business owners as they launch companies in the Bronx. Equally important, agencies shared about new business regulations. From the Department of Environmental Protection to Sanitation and Consumer Affairs, businesses learned how to avoid easy violations and keep their businesses in good standing.

Our CRA Officer, Melanie Stern, opened the event by sharing about our mission, noting the commitment from the city representatives to the thriving of the local economy in the Bronx.

“The city representatives with us today are committed to the growth of small businesses as they are a key part of a thriving community. Additionally, they understand that an outcome of gentrification is business displacement,” said Melanie.

In his opening remarks, SBS Commissioner Greg Bishop highlighted important SBS initiatives. He spoke about how important it is for small business owners to understand local regulations, so they avoid hefty fines. Recent SBS  initiatives include “We Fund Credit,” providing affordable lines of credit to women entrepreneurs and “BE NYC,” helping more black-owned businesses start and grow.

Our co-sponsor, Councilwoman Gibson, welcomed our guests and talked about the numerous ways community and government collaboration can support the viability of the small businesses in the neighborhood. She highlighted recent efforts of how the city stepped in to support the sustainability of a multi-generational,family-owned sports apparel retailer near Yankee Stadium.

We are proud to partner with and support the hardworking city officials, entrepreneurs, and community change agents in the Bronx. And, we are grateful to be a community-focused bank, serving as a resource and gathering place for our neighbors. Thank you to the SBS, Commissioner Greg Bishop, and Councilwoman Gibson for co-hosting a very special day.

Read about SBS. Learn about our Small Business Lending Program. Open a Small Business Checking account.

Spring Bank New York

The Spring Bank Green Checking Account

Climate Week 2019, New York City. Thousands of delegates, environmentalists, and conscious consumers engaged in hundreds of panels, events, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) action-oriented gatherings. Our friends at the Center for Social Innovation hosted the closing Climate Week event, “The Marketplace of the Future,” where fellow B Corp Carbon Credit Capital—the NYC-based company that helped us become carbon neutral—showcased their global projects, including the one we support in the Amazon.

Climate Week NYC presents an annual, collective opportunity to stand for the future of our planet. And we invite you to integrate this momentum into your daily life. How? By moving your money to an ethical bank. Why? Because traditional financial institutions invest in oil, mono agriculture, logging, and other industries that contribute to our current climate crisis. You may be unknowingly supporting their investsments if you don’t know exactly where they put their—aka your–money. We encourage you to find out. Set-up a meeting with the lending team or CRA officer at your bank. Ask them to provide a list of their investments in the last five years. If they are working to shift their portfolio, like us, this is a good sign.

One of the steps we’ve taken in our journey is to offer a Green Checking account. It’s our completely paperless personal checking account with zero maintenance fee options and no overdraft fees. All you need is an email address, and your monthly statements are sent to you electronically. And, when you access your Green Checking account through the Spring Bank mobile app, you have 24/7 access to your money without printing or recycling statements ever again.

You can trust that when you bank with us, we invest your dollars back into the community. As a mission-driven, ethical bank, and the first B Corp bank in New York City, we work hard to support the community through small-dollar consumer loans and small business microloans. It’s our part in building an inclusive economy and a healthier planet.

Open a Green Checking account today. Learn about our journey to carbon neutral and what it means to be an ethical bank. Read 3 Ways to Know If You Deposit Your Money in an Ethical Bank. Check out our recent 2019 Best For The World Award from B Lab.

Corporate social responsibility. Sustainably responsible investing (SRI). Ethical banking. Banks have joined the world of sustainable business. And the language about their on-the-ground environmental and social impact isn’t exactly clear. Banks know the growing LOHAS (Lifestyle on Health and Sustainability) and the conscious consumer movements value over 300B dollars. Creating a prime marketing opportunity for financial institutions, they brand products like “Clean Energy Savings” and “Green Checking” (check out the Spring Bank Checking account after you finish this blog!) So, it is greenwashing? Or is your financial institution legitimately leveraging their investments to make a positive difference?

Here are three tips to know if your bank is ethical:

  1. Your Bank’s Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) rating?
    Start by looking at your bank’s publicly available CRA rating. The CRA legislation was passed in 1977 to prevent the practice of redlining and to minimize systemic financial exclusion. We are proud to have received the highest available CRA rating from the FDIC, “Outstanding,” based on our record of meeting the credit needs of low and moderate-income neighborhoods in 2018.
  2. Is Your Bank a US Treasury Certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI)?
    Since 1994 the United States Treasury has certified a singular number of banks as CDFIs based on their use of deposits to provide low-and moderate-income communities the credit they need. If your bank is a designated CDFI, you can be certain that your money is lent to the communities that need capital the most. We proudly became designated as a CDFI in 2014 and have received numerous awards and recognition from the CDFI Fund.
  3. Is Your Bank a B Corp?

    B Corps, or Benefit Corporations, lead the way of metrics-based reporting and transparency to impact in the sustainable business movement. Businesses obtain B Corp status in two ways: completing the B Impact Assessment and through the legal business structure of a Benefit Corporation. B Corps receive a score through the B Impact Assessment which measures the impact on workers, customers, suppliers, community and the environment. Stakeholder primacy drives B Corps to “build a durable and shared prosperity for all.”

    We are honored to be New York State’s first B Corp bank and to receive four awards as Best For The World among the top 10 percent of all B Corps—just last week! And to that point, next week marks the annual B Corp retreat in Los Angeles. We are excited to gather with the movement. If you are attending, we would love to have you join our CEO, Demetris Giannoulias, and our partners at Neighborhood Financial Trust for a Tuesday breakout session at 2:45 PM titled: “Employee Financial Health as Smart Business.” We will address the financial challenges faced by employers and employees and available tools by which to build healthy financial workplaces. Check the schedule on the retreat app on Sunday for more details.

    We’d be happy to talk with you about financial inclusion, affordable banking products like our Start Loan and Green Checking account and how together, we can build an economy that benefits all of us.

    Find the CRA rating of any bank in the USA. Learn more about ethical B Corp banks and their scores. Read about our 2019 Best For The World award.

The property at 645 Barretto Street in the South Bronx was so far behind on taxes that its owners were facing foreclosure. A 48-unit building incorporated as a Housing Development Fund Corporation co-op (HDFC), the property had not been fully occupied for years. Its unpaid water bill alone was close to half a million dollars. And it had a history of maintenance issues that went back years — a boiler collapsed shortly after it was incorporated as a co-op in the early 1980s, says Ann Henderson, who has worked at UHAB, the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, since the late 1970s.

UHAB, a nonprofit that develops low-income co-op housing and assists existing co-ops, had tried to help the Barretto Street group resolve its tax arrears in 2002 and 2008, but they were having trouble filling the vacancies, so it was tough to secure loans, Henderson says. In 2014 the property was up for auction, but a city councilmember pulled it off the list at the last minute.

“And so we had to come up with a plan to resolve it or they would get foreclosed,” Henderson says.

As an HDFC co-op, the Barretto Street property’s owners are income-limited, earning up to 120 percent of area median income. HDFC co-ops also get reduced tax bills for adhering to income caps and certain rules about renting, subletting, and reselling units. New York’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development had money available for co-ops like theirs through its Green Housing Preservation Program. Quite a bit of money, in fact — $2.4 million from the housing department, according Juliet Pierre-Antoine, a department spokeswoman. And the grant came with a retroactive tax exemption through Article XI of the New York Private Housing Finance Law. That would get the co-op close, but not the whole way. Money from the housing department can’t be used to pay down water bills. So, working with UHAB, the co-op got two more loans, from Habitat for Humanity NYC and the Bronx-based Spring Bank, to cover the water debt.

“That’s what we try to do, is sort of combine this and that and come up with a plan,” Henderson says. “Our main goal is to make the maintenance [payments] affordable for the current residents.”

Henderson says there are around 1,200 HDFC co-ops in the city, many of which were turned over to residents by the city as landlords were abandoning properties during the 1970s. Many of them have been lost to foreclosure, she says. And many others have struggled to keep their properties maintained. Groups like UHAB have been a lifeline, offering technical assistance and help finding loans and grants to co-ops like 645 Barretto Street. This helps stabilize co-ops so that low- and moderate-income owners can stay in their homes.

“The reality is that the city sold these unrenovated buildings to the lowest-income people in the city of New York and said, ‘Bye, have a nice life,’” Henderson says.

Henderson says that most co-ops are stable, but there are around 150 HDFC co-ops that might need help. They might need a new boiler, or have to clean up after a fire, or they’ve had money stolen. But many are “allergic to loans,” Henderson says. In the case of the Barretto Street property, UHAB met with the board repeatedly to walk the shareholders through the finances of the deal it structured, which will require the board to pay back loans for years. The vote to approve the deal was unanimous, Henderson says.

“In most buildings, the shareholders have a deep, deep sense of ownership,” she says. “And it’s not based on ‘how much money I’ve invested’ and ‘how much I’m going to sell the apartment for.’ It’s, ‘I lived through the abandonment of the sixties and seventies.’”

Akbar Rizvi, the chief lending officer at Spring Bank, says the co-op’s situation was a “catch 22,” because it needed money from the city to complete the repairs that could keep it from foreclosure, but it couldn’t get the money because it couldn’t pay the water bill. And the size of the water bill would be a red flag in most cases.

“Most banks would hear that and go, ‘You know what? No thanks. This doesn’t make sense,’” Rizvi says.

But Spring Bank saw that the co-op had new management and was working with Habitat, and was “in it for the long haul,” he says.

“What helped us move forward was our commitment to being able to understand the full story and not jumping to conclusions — understanding what this HDFC had been through,” Rizvi says. The bank ultimately ended up loaning the co-op $265,000.

Chris Illum and Charlotte Bell, a vice president of housing services and loan officer, respectively, at Habitat NYC, both previously worked at UHAB, according to Ann Henderson. The group loaned the 645 Barretto Street co-op $250,000 through a housing preservation program that’s part of the Habitat NYC Community Fund. Given how many limited-equity co-ops there are in neighborhoods threatened with displacement, the group has focused on keeping those homeowners in place, offering technical assistance on construction projects, help with budgeting, and facilitating board elections.

The fund launched recently, and in its first year, it lent $640,000 across five buildings, according to Illum. The Community Fund is hoping that over the next three or four years it will lend around $4.5 million to help develop or preserve 1,500 buildings in New York, Illum says. For projects like Barretto Street, even relatively small loans can make a big difference.

“There was a previous effort to save the building, but all of that was contingent upon selling the units they had vacant during a time when no one wanted to live in the Bronx,” Bell says. “When we’re not able to help stabilize the type of housing that’s in these communities, they’re likely to be lost.”

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our thrice-weekly Backyard newsletter.