By Nathan Duke
The ERDA, led by Rev. Mitchell Taylor of Long Island City's Center for Hope International, joined local elected officials and representatives from Freddie Mac and Chase Home Finance Friday to announce the initiative – ERDA Homes Homeownership Initiative – which will better educate public housing residents about how to gain homeownership, repair credit and build wealth. The developments to be serviced by the program include Ravenswood, Astoria Houses and Queensbridge Houses, which is the largest public housing development in the country.”This program will take people from the conceptualization of the American Dream to the realization of the American Dream,” Taylor said at the program's kickoff. “We're not leaving anyone behind. It is about giving people the educational tools to build wealth and create financial stability. Some people become complacent and don't realize they can move on to the next level, but you could own a home, you can buy a co-op or a condo.”Taylor said residents are often not asked to leave public housing if their income increases. Therefore, they often do not look into buying their own home, he said.In Astoria and Long Island City alone, there are about 31,000 people living in public housing, including 15,000 residents at Queensbridge, 6,000 at Ravenswood and 5,000 at Astoria Houses, Taylor said. He said the average income in the developments is $20,000 a year. HousesTaylor, ERDA members and financial institution representatives were joined Friday by a handful of local elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D- Astoria), Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D- Astoria), Councilman Eric Gioia (D- Long Island City), Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and Assemblyman Darryl Towns (D- Brooklyn), all of whom praised the initiative.Maloney said that, at 64 percent , the United States has more residents that own homes than any other nation in the world. She said public housing residents should be given the same opportunity.Nolan said her parents once lived in Queensbridge Houses and that it took them 19 years of saving money to buy their own home. She said ERDA's new program will help make homeownership easier for Queens residents.Gioia said about half of the people living at Queensbridge currently do not have bank accounts and that a number of them never had one. Last week, he and Taylor led a march from Long Island City's PS 111 to the Center of Hope International calling for the creation of a bank near Queensbridge. He said ERDA actively helps public housing residents with financial issues and creates financial improvement opportunities for them.Deborah Johnson, vice president of affordable lending for Chase Home Financing, said the combination of financial institutions, the ERDA and Queens elected officials will help underserved borough residents.”Starting today, things in Long Island City will be different,” she said. “Making the dream of homeownership requires much more than a financial commitment. It takes the dedication, teamwork, resources and focus of all the players in the process.”Reach reporter Nathan Duke by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.