Jim recently moved into a condominium development–a new duplex with a spiral staircase carved from the shell of a downtown bank—affordable housing made possible by a loan from Community Capital that filled in a critical financing gap for the developer. He now pays $710 a month in mortgage and interest, plus condo fees and taxes, $266 commuting on Metro North, and shops at a local farmers market for cheese and wine, all of which fits comfortably enough within his salary (below $60,000) to enable him to take up his passion—skydiving—in Gardiner. Sharing some cheddar and white wine from his favorite local vintner, Millbrook Wineries, he explains:
Where were you before you found affordable housing?
I was splitting a tiny apartment in West Harlem on 141st Street with a room mate, and cockroaches, bed bugs and a rodent. If you didn’t leave the bathroom light on at night, the rat would scratch loudly at the door all night long. I looked at my budget and realized I couldn’t afford much more than the $730 a month that was my share. I have an incredible and unique job, but it was a ball and chain. I felt trapped economically and physically.
How did you find Ossining Flats, an affordable housing condominium development?
I work in audio production, doing a lot of voice overs, in soundproof studios, mainly in the news and talk radio departments of the station. It’s quiet, but high stress. I began watching shows on parachuting on Discovery HD to relax. Then I thought, ‘people really do this,’ and, call it a quarter-life crisis, I decided I had to try it. I fell in love with it. I looked for rentals in Ossining, because it’s right on the Hudson and I wanted a commute that was beautiful all the way down, and half way between work and Gardiner. But rentals were $1000 or more a month, and then I’d have to pay the $266 monthly train ticket, and I was over budget. I wanted to get away from the noise and the traffic and the incredible density of Manhattan. I wanted to skydive seriously, as a sport. Then I happened on an ad on Craigslist for an affordable housing condominium development. And it listed the incomes. And I made under the limit.
I saw the building, a new renovation of an old downtown bank. And the apartments. Then I asked the Housing Action Council (a Community Capital partner) for the one bedroom with the spiral staircase. I asked what I needed to do and was told “get me this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this.’ I went straight back to my office on a Saturday night and printed out payroll stubs, bank account records, brokerage accounts, and statements. Then a month later I was told I could have the apartment I wanted. I was ecstatic.
How long did it take?
A year. I was subletting, and put all my things in storage. I was paying rent and waiting to hear. In the interim, two more grants were found, $40,000 and $25,000, which reduced the apartment price even further. I was able to qualify for a loan with a low interest rate and $6000 to help with closing costs.
What would you change?
When did you know you’d arrived?
When my friends come up from the city and say ‘This is affordable housing?’ It’s an architect-designed luxury space, with new stainless steel appliances, a spiral staircase, interesting shaped rooms–each apartment is unique. It’s a dream come true and I love living the cliché. I’ll be here for 40 years.