By BOBBIE BELL
A report by a prominent housing advocacy group on Thursday proposed removing the barriers to loans faced by immigrants in the wake of the pandemic.
“Lack of credit is a huge barrier to home ownership for immigrants, but it doesn’t have to be. We just have to think outside the box,” said Sheena Kang, an analyst with the Citizens Housing and Planning Council, citing the report. “Supporting New York City immigrants might seem like a niche issue, but that is very far from the truth,”
Another advocate used even stronger language.
“How do we make life so miserable, how do we make immigrants suffer so much to advance our white supremacist agenda?” said Anu Joshi, of New York Immigration Coalition sarcastically, blaming “the federal government’s shameful failure to include immigrants in COVID relief programs.”
According to the report, “Housing Plan for a City of Immigrants”, immigrants make up 37% of the city population and 44% of the workforce.
“A city of immigrants’ lens is not just a social equity issue, this is also something that affects every New Yorkers no matter where they are from,” said Kang, noting that immigrants keep the economy running.
CHPC Executive Director Jessica Katz said the objective of the plan is to spark conversation about what needs to be done to best support the immigrant population. “In our plan, we really want to focus on not to dictate any type of policy,” said Katz.
The report cites a few programs like Fannie Mae’s HomeReady Mortgage and New York State’s Conventional Plus program that allow down payment assistance loans. The report also mentions that it is worth having more educational programs on how to accumulate credit.
During a webinar staged by group, panelists mentioned the need for rental assistance and increased inclusion of immigrants in affordable housing lotteries. A major barrier for the immigrant community in NYC has been the discrimination that makes these programs feel inaccessible.
Another panelist said that immigrants are currently struggling to remain in the neighborhoods they largely occupy.
Michelle de la Cruz, the executive director of Fifth Avenue Committee, cited a report from Fifth Avenue Committee that Sunset Park ranks 13th in immigrant population. Cruz added that gentrification has been pushing immigrants out of the neighborhood since “a lot of immigrants don’t know their rights.
Kang also noted that immigrants have been reluctant to fill out census forms, erroneously fearing that their lack of citizenship would be revealed but the forms do not include questions about immigration status.