Schenectady

Agency expands down payment assistance to all of Schenectady County

In this Feb. 5, 2021 photo, Better Community Neighborhoods Inc. CEO Jennica Huff speaks inside the Yates Village Community Center as BCNI announced the recent completion and underway 965 housing units in city of Schenectady.
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In this Feb. 5, 2021 photo, Better Community Neighborhoods Inc. CEO Jennica Huff speaks inside the Yates Village Community Center as BCNI announced the recent completion and underway 965 housing units in city of Schenectady.

SCHENECTADY — With the help of a new grant, a Schenectady housing counseling agency is now offering financial assistance to first-time homebuyers in all of Schenectady County, not just the city of Schenectady.

Qualified applicants can receive up to $10,000 through Better Community Neighborhoods Inc. toward the down payment on their first house.

BCNI serves residents of several area counties as a housing counselor, CEO Jennica Huff said, but terms of the funding it received from the city and state for down payment assistance had limited eligibility to city residents. A grant from the Schenectady Foundation expands eligibility to all of Schenectady County, she said.

Income limit for assistance is 80% of median household income in the Albany-Schenectady-Troy Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Counseling in foreclosure prevention, general financial literacy and other topics are offered to people buying their first homes and to all BCNI clients, Huff said.

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“With every client that we’re counseling, regardless of their goals, we’re creating a work plan to help them achieve that goal,” she said.

“We’re also working with multifamily owners to advance tenant housing counseling,” Huff said, because a stable tenant base helps maintain long-term neighborhood stability.

BCNI was formed in early 2021 by the merger of Better Neighborhoods Inc. and Community Land Trust of Schenectady.

Four of its staff counselors are certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Our housing counseling team is amazing,” she said.

And the team has been busy, as the real estate market booms.

“In 2020 and 2021 we have helped 121 households purchase their first homes,” Huff said.

“Since the pandemic, housing across the board has gained easily 45% value,” she added. “So yes, that can be a limiting factor for the first-time homebuyer. But that’s not just Schenectady, that’s across the board. The work that we’re doing is encouraging.”

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