New funding aims to protect senior homeowners in Bed-Stuy

August 26, 2019 Kelly Mena
Bed-Stuy brownstones. Eagle file photo
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As local officials look to curb the loss of homeownership sweeping across parts of Central Brooklyn, a newly announced designation for Bedford-Stuyvesant may be a new tool in the fight to keep seniors from losing their brownstones.

The neighborhood last week was designated a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community, bringing funding and programming for residents 60 years of age or older. The designation will specifically look to keep the district’s brownstones (along with other properties) in the hands of seniors and their families, who helped build the community, according to the public announcement.

“In the face of increasing fraud schemes, gentrification, and the lingering effects of the financial crisis, NORC designation provides seniors with the opportunity to age in place with government funding for supportive services,” said City Councilmember Robert Cornegy, who represents the neighborhood and secured the funding.

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As part of the designation, the community will get programming dedicated to reducing foreclosures and fraud schemes like deed theft. The City Council has allocated $100,000 for the programming through the nonprofit group Brooklyn Neighborhood Services.

Seniors in the area have become particularly vulnerable over the last couple of years to fraud schemes due to a rise in property values fueled by new — and often more affluent — residents. The changing marketplace has led to increased financial pressure on the aging population facing retirement and a fixed income.

State Attorney General Letitia James earlier this year announced that her office receives more deed theft complaints from Brooklyn than all the other boroughs combined, with Bed-Stuy representing the epicenter of the issue.

“A significant part of the NORC programming will focus on senior homeowners at risk of losing their homes to various mortgage scams in the community, as well as mortgage default counseling,” said Richard Trouth, executive director of BNS.

The new designation will also look to bridge the gap in the transfer of property ownership between generations, helping younger family members of senior property owners take possession of their family’s home without having to face a legal war for rights to the million dollar property.

Brownstones in the traditionally black neighborhood have been a symbol of intergenerational wealth with many residents being what James has called “cash poor but house rich,” causing family feuds over ownership after the death of the senior relative.

Other programming for the newly age-friendly district includes social services in health and wellness, fitness, case-management assistance, benefits and entitlements, educational activities, outings and volunteer opportunities.

The designation comes in the wake of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signing of the “Deed Theft Bill” last Wednesday. The new state law bans behaviors connected to deed theft, including the harassment of financially distressed homeowners from unscrupulous “consultants” claiming to lend a hand, and also makes it easier for victims of fraud to regain their lost property.

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