These Women Are Powering Affordable Housing In NYC

Tonya Ores of Neighborhood Housing Services of Brooklyn and Jeanique Riche-Druses of JPMorgan Chase are empowering women ­­to manage their properties.

December 7, 2023

  • By Lib Aubuchon,

A version of this article was originally published on Bustle.com

Home is more than just a place to live. It’s the foundation upon which you can build your future. It’s stability. It’s safety. In addition to providing shelter, owning property can also have an immense financial impact on people’s ability to save and build generational wealth. And homeownership rates help the local economy by increased spending within the community.

That’s why Tonya Ores, CEO of the nonprofit housing organization Neighborhood Housing Services, Brooklyn has been working tirelessly for more than 25 years to ensure that members of her community have access to homeownership opportunities. “Everyone needs a safe and affordable place to stay,” she says. “That’s why the mission of NHS Brooklyn [is] to help people stay in their homes.”

NHS Brooklyn was founded in 1982, just a few years after several local groups organized protests against local banks in Brooklyn accused of redlining — a discriminatory practice of denying mortgage loans in areas considered risky financial investments. The nonprofit organization rallied neighborhood residents, educating them on the housing market and assisting them with home improvement loans.

Although NHS Brooklyn serves all community members, it understands the particular importance of helping women gain economic independence. Until 1974, when theEqual Credit Opportunity Act was passed, single women often faced hurdles and discrimination when trying to obtain a mortgage without a male co-signer. Despite that, single women have been the second largest group of home purchasers (17 percent) — trailing only married couples (61 percent) and nearly doubling single men (9 percent) in 2022 — since the National Association of Realtors started tracking the data in 1981.

Today, 85 percent of the people NHS Brooklyn helps are women, and theorganization’s list of services has expanded to include first-time homebuyer education, home maintenance training, insurance counseling, tenant services, home repair loans, and landlord training.

With the help of JPMorgan Chase, Ores has the backing and support needed to enhance the services her team provides to Brooklyn communities. “Like many non-profit organizations,” says Ores, “one of the hurdles is funding. JPMorgan Chase is our guardian angel. Their support provided us with the funds needed to help all community members, especially women, be empowered, become stronger business owners, and become professional property managers. They brought us to another level.”

JPMorgan Chase has been supporting NHS Brooklyn for more than 20 years most recently awarding the organization a $1.9 million grant to provide education and training for owners of one- to four-unit homes, helping them increase the value of the property and build wealth. The investment is part of the company’s Annual Challenge competition, which began in 2018 and sources innovative and sustainable ideas to advance equity in the United States. This year’s competition called for projects focused on supporting women of color, and NHS Brooklyn was one of eight winners selected nationwide in 2023.

“It's one thing to acquire a home. It's a whole other thing to maintain it, keep it, and leverage that asset to generate generational wealth for you and your family,” says Jeanique Riche-Druses, Executive Director of Global Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase.

For over two decades, JPMorgan Chase has alsosupported the group by assisting with their homeownership and financial education programs. These programs assist low- to moderate-income families in buying their first homes, provide clients with individual pre-purchase homeownership counseling services, connect distressed homeowners to permanent mortgage modifications that can help reduce their monthly housing costs.

For Ores and Riche-Druses, this mission is personal. When Ores was in high school, her father lost the family home as a result of predatory lending. “I don’t want that for anyone else,” she says. “Being able to provide safe, affordable, and decent housing to communities and families means a lot to me.”

And, with multiple women in her family who are heads of households, Riche-Druses knows first-hand how critical it is for them to shatter gender stereotypes and embrace home maintenance roles.

“We’re all used to watching the shows on TV about making something open concept or reinforcing the stairs,” she says, but “what happens if you have no one walking you through that process? NHS Brooklyn has a program to [do that], to help homeowners increase the value of their property to create generational wealth, serve their communities, and provide much-needed affordable housing.”

As a leader, Ores takes pride in the sense of community fostered within her organization. She emphasizes the power of unity and collaboration, especially among women working toward a common goal, and she sees herself as a testament to what can be achieved through determination. “When women get together, and we're on the same road going the same way, it is very powerful,” says Ores.

“That’s why we’re proud to support NHS's mission, because they are actively empowering women,” says Riche-Druses. “And by empowering women, we're creating a more equitable economy.”

Ores and her team, with the support of JPMorgan Chase, are not just advocating for affordable housing: They’re designing futures and fulfilling the promise that a home carries.

See how JPMorgan Chase is committed to creating a more inclusive and stronger economy through community investments.

Learn more about JPMorgan Chase’s commitment to advancing women-owned businesses here.

Learn more about how JPMorgan Chase supports the economic growth of New York City


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