During the Pandemic, Community Development Organizations Prioritize Relief and Assistance Work

It had been a years-long battle, but in the end Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation and its allies and neighbors prevailed. In early 2019, the city of New York finally approved a pilot program that would allow low- and moderate-income residents of East New York to turn their basements into rental units with access to favorable loans, and technical assistance from organizations like Cypress Hills. The policy fit squarely within the group’s mission: boosting homeowners’ income while also increasing the community’s stock of affordable housing.

But by mid-2020, a year after funding began flowing, the city shut off the tap and canceled the program. The coronavirus pandemic was paralyzing the country, and while New York was no longer the epicenter of the disease, there were many more immediate uses for the money.

For Cypress Hills, the loss of the program and its accompanying funding was a blow. “We had to lay off staff, which was heartbreaking,” says Stephanie Becker, Cypress Hills’ director of community development. “Ultimately we’re lucky that we’re doing OK, but it was pretty disruptive.”

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