Protect access to affordable homeownership.

Dear Governor Hochul,

We celebrate and embrace your decision to prioritize home ownership for low-income families in NYS, in particular Black and brown families.  The decision reflects your understanding that while affordable rentals are an important part of solving the housing crisis, home ownership creates a permanent solution not only for meeting housing needs, but for creating generational wealth and stability for families historically left behind.

However, we were crushed to learn that the single most impactful product NYS offers, SONYMA Habitat for Humanity 2% interest rate mortgage, is sunsetting in 2025.  Further, with no warning, we were advised on December 5, 2023 that the lending cap had already been met for FY24 and all families in progress must wait 7 months to be eligible for a SONYMA Habitat for Humanity mortgage.  There is already an overwhelming number of families waiting for access to affordable, equitable home ownership and we know the funds will run out before everyone qualifies.  This guaranteed product makes it possible for families earning 30 – 80% of the AMI to purchase homes for 30% of their gross income. At a time when we should be increasing allocations to this program, the state is eliminating it.

As an example, a single-head-of-household family of 3 earning $41,000 as a direct support professional is able to afford $112,000 at 2% interest for their principal, interest, taxes and insurance.  Without this program, using the best rate SONYMA offers of 6.3%, the same family will only be able to afford $63,000, essentially shutting them out from homeownership completely

In this scenario, the not-for-profit Habitat developer would already have been subsidizing the home sale for $130,000 just to ensure affordability with a 2% interest rate. It is simply not feasible to ask not-for-profit developers to cover an even higher subsidy due to the elimination of the Habitat SONYMA mortgage program.

Without this low-interest option, fewer affordable homes will be built and fewer low-income families will have access to homeownership. This will disproportionately affect Black and brown households who, as detailed in the NY Attorney General’s recent report on racial disparities, have already been harmed by housing discrimination and have largely been shut out from homeownership.  The essential workers that brought us safely through COVID will be left behind once again.  Our employers will not be able to fill these jobs because the employees will no longer be able to afford to live here. Simply put, Habitat will no longer be able to serve the New York State families that need affordable housing the most.

Governor Hochul, Habitat for Humanity is the only statewide program that meets homebuyers where they are financially.  Without Habitat, homeownership will no longer be possible for thousands of families across the state.

For Taneria, Sarah, Connell, Jay, Bola, Jessie, Sam, Damaris, Keesha, Julia, Joy and so many more please reconsider this decision.  We stand ready to work with you along with committed banking institutions and community leaders to solve this problem.  Together we are stronger, and New York State can become the gold standard for affordable housing if we all work together.

We ask you to restore the Habitat SONYMA program so that we can continue to fulfill your goal of expanding access to homeownership for all New Yorkers.