A Rising tide lifts all boats

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Troy Rehabilitation & Improvement breathes life into neighborhood programs

By Rachel Spensieri
Troy has seen the best of times, and the worst of times. During its heyday, Troy was a bustling Hudson River port. At the turn of the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution brought steel manufacturing, and clothing factories and other heavy industry created bountiful jobs for residents.
But the tide would turn for Troy as the steel industry moved to Pennsylvania and garment manufacturing moved to the South. Prohibition made Troy a hotbed for the illegal alcohol trade, bringing with it an array of associated vices that ran down the city.
Losing wealth, legitimate jobs, and much of its population by the end of World War II, Troy was down, but it is far from out, as shown by its revitalization in recent years. And one of the organizations integral to Troy’s renaissance has been the Troy Rehabilitation and Improvement Program (TRIP), Inc.

TRIPexterior 0616Comprehensive community development
Founded in 1968 to help low- and mid-income families achieve the American dream of homeownership, TRIP has expanded its services and programs over the decades to meet the needs of their city. Today, TRIP offers affordably priced rental units and programs for prospective homebuyers, homeowners, and landlords in the greater Troy area.
TRIP’s mission: “Connecting individuals and families with resources and knowledge to live in desirable homes and create vibrant sustainable communities.”
TRIP’s executive director, Christine Nealon, who took the helm in January of this year, sees the ever-increasing potential in Troy and the people who live there.
“TRIP offers customers a continuum of assistance to meet them where they are,” says Nealon. “We help residents who are looking to rent safe, affordable homes; prospective homebuyers who need guidance through the purchase process; homeowners who have run into financial troubles; and landlords who want to make improvements to their properties.”

Safe, affordable rental options
Providing high-quality, reasonably priced rental units is a top priority for TRIP. “With the revitalization going on in Troy, there is an ever-growing demand for safe, affordable housing,” notes Nealon. TRIP’s motivation for meeting this need is twofold. “Offering quality and affordable rental units, TRIP helps people who are in low-wage or part-time positions have a nice place to live, which in turn helps stabilize the community. By focusing on Troy’s many positive traits, people will connect with their community in a positive way. People who feel proud of where they live also feel a sense of ownership and leadership.”
TRIP manages 250 rental units in numerous Troy neighborhoods. Some offer subsidies to low- and middle-income renters; others are tailored to the needs of seniors. TRIP rentals all have been updated and offer 24/7 on-call maintenance to residents, ensuring the properties stay spic and span. “On top of our diligence with building upkeep, TRIP’s applicant screening process is designed to attract and keep the best tenants who will make good neighbors for everyone in the community,” says Nealon. In fact, TRIP supports the city as a whole, having paid $246,924 in property taxes in 2015.

Help for prospective buyers, homeowners and landlords
TRIP’s NeighborWorks Homeownership Center offers programs and assistance for people who are considering the purchase of their first home and homeowners trying to avoid foreclosure, as well as for landlords who need a helping hand to better manage their investment.
“Attending a free Homebuyer Orientation Session is the place to start if you want to buy your first home,” advises Nealon. “We talk about the advantages and disadvantages of homeownership, provide a snapshot of qualifying for a mortgage, and explain some of the costs you will incur in the home-buying process. Participants also learn about the steps involved in our Pre-Purchase Program and our First-Time Homebuyer Down Payment Assistance.”
After clients have orientation under their belts, they then can meet with a TRIP housing counselor to determine their mortgage readiness. If they are tracking in the right direction, TRIP’s Homebuyer Education Class is the next step. Nealon explains, “This six-hour workshop provides all the information needed to learn about the home-buying process: what to look for when buying a home, different mortgage products, roles of different professionals, and more.”
Through an affiliation with Rensselaer County Housing Resources (RCHR), TRIP’s homeownership programs have been expanded throughout the county and the Capital District through the Homeownership Repair Assistance Program. This means the spectrum of services continues beyond the “SOLD” sign being removed from the yard. For new and existing homeowners alike, TRIP, in partnership with RCHR, offers repairs to all major systems of the home and corrects health and safety issues. The RCHR Mini-Repair Program provides experienced labor at no charge to eligible homeowners–the only cost to the owner is materials. In addition, TRIP and RCHR host a Home Maintenance Class that teaches clients how to do basic home repairs themselves and also provides help from the pros if needed.
Other services offered by TRIP for current and prospective property owners include:
• Matched savings programs available to first time buyers through nine local banks, providing a $4 match to every dollar saved by the homebuyer to be used for a down payment or closing costs
• Pre-purchase counseling for people who have extensive debt or have not yet established their credit
• Default and foreclosure prevention counseling to help homeowners who are having difficulty paying their mortgage understand what options may be available and help prevent homelessness
• Landlord resources including a four-hour training session with experts on tenant screening and prevention of a number of potential pitfalls of being a landlord

Customers are who are also fans
Kelli and Jarel Treece had heard about TRIP’s homebuyer assistance programs through word of mouth, though they were a bit skeptical at first. “It seemed almost too good to be true,” notes Kelli, an operations associate at RPI.
Now, having worked with TRIP, the Treeces tell everyone they know about it. “It was the best decision we ever made,” says Jarel, a customer service field engineer at Precision Valve and Automation.
In August of 2014, newlyweds Kelli and Jarel joined TRIP’s First Home Club, a matched savings program through their bank. Jarel explains: “For every $1 we put into a designated savings account, our bank would match $4–up to $7,500; it was basically free money.”
In November of 2015, the Treeces used their savings and purchased a 1950s-era home in the Troy-Schaghticoke area that was move-in ready. “When we moved in, TRIP gave us a great housewarming gift— a toolset!” Kelli says. “But TRIP gave us so much more than that. Without TRIP, we wouldn’t have been able to afford to purchase our home so early in our marriage. We would highly recommend TRIP’s programs, especially for younger people who are just starting out, being ‘adults,'” she quips.

For more information
Visit the TRIP website, www.triponline.org, to learn more about their programs and resources for current and aspiring homeowners and landlords, as well as to download an application for prospective renters, or call 272.8289.

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