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Rural New York renters see benefits of COVID block grants

  • / Updated:
  • Edwin Viera 

Some one-time grant funding has made the difference between renters in rural New York having a safe place to live – or having to move.

The McNeil Park Apartments, in Copenhagen, is an income-based complex for seniors and adults with disabilities. When it was purchased in 2020 by the Copenhagen Happy Acres Housing Fund, McNeil Park was in a state of disrepair.

But Snow Belt Housing Company, which manages the complex, applied for a Covid-19 Community Development Block Grant.

Snow Belt Executive Director Jaylyn Heames described what would have happened had the grant not come through.

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“We would have done the minimal repairs,” said Heames. “But eventually – if the roof deteriorated any more, and it became a health and safety hazard – like, Codes (housing code enforcement) could have come in, theoretically, and made us displace those tenants to another location. Or they could have condemned it until somebody could make the repairs.”

With the units now in better condition, they’re helping to relieve New York’s rural affordable housing shortage.

A Rural Housing Coalition of New York report finds rural counties in the state have more than two million housing units – while their urban counterparts have around three times that amount.

Heames noted that the grant has also helped keep repair costs down, since major repairs can be made right away.

Regular inspections are done to catch repair needs as they happen. And with the apartments looking better than they have in years, she said residents truly feel at home.

“It really feels like home,” said Heames. “A lot of them purchased their own plants and stuff for the apartment, like they’re really trying to keep up with it. They’re using the community rooms again.”

The hope is that grants like this can provide housing to stunt the growing national trend of homelessness.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness says since 2017, the number of people without permanent shelter has increased 6%.

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