I CARE, the Larchmont-Mamaroneck organization that helps establish and maintain affordable housing locally, is “going broke” as it tries to keep up with an ever-rising property tax bill on the homes it owns, said Caroline Silverstone, the current chair of the non-profit’s board and a former Mamaroneck Town supervisor.
Now in its 19th year, the Interfaith Council for Affordable Housing – I CARE – is trying to balance its books in a stepped up appeal for donations from local residents.
As explained by Ms. Silverstone, I CARE relies on donations, in addition to rent from the 12 families now residing in the three homes it bought and the 3 two-family buildings it co-owns with Washingtonville Housing Alliance. The families, whose incomes are well below the community median, pay one third of their income in rent.
Rent Isn’t Covering Taxes, New Roofs & Other Costs
The rent, set by federal guidelines, is supposed to cover the mortgage and maintenance. “But unexpected repairs to aging roofs and plumbing leave I CARE with a deficit,” said Ms. Silverstone. “This year, the poor job market has also made it difficult for some tenants to keep up with their share of the rent.”
“I Care doesn’t want to make people homeless, but our ability to be generous is very limited, given our perilous financial situation,” said Ms. Silverstone.
“The tax on the three houses directly under our control are over $38,000 this year,” said Ms. Silverstone, after checking the files. “When we acquired the houses [in 1991,1998, and 2000], taxes totaled just over $18,000.” The house in Rye Neck had its taxes doubled because of revaluation and other increments from $7,100 in 2000 to $14,400 in 2009.
“When I CARE was established it was decided that we should pay real estate taxes just as every other homeowner does,” explained Ms. Silverstone. “By now, however, real estate taxes are becoming a major burden, as is the case for most homeowners. Our property taxes now exceed our annual fund-raising.
“We need to raise 50% more than we did in the past year,” she indicated. In 2008, the annual fundraising letter and other donations brought in $25,000. “This year, we’ll need around $45,000 to cover expenses and give us an emergency cushion,” She said.
One of the I Care houses is in Larchmont Village. It is the only affordable dwelling in the Village other than apartments with rent subsidized by the federal Section 8 program. It’s close to 100 years old. The other two are in Mamaroneck Village. One is about 100 years old, the other around 80.
I CARE also co-owns with Washingtonville Housing Alliance 3 two-family homes built in the last 15 years. “All three suffered considerable damage in the 2007 flooding and required a lot of work,” reported Ms. Silverstone.
19th Year – and Struggling
2009 marks the 19th year that I CARE is appealing to Larchmont and Mamaroneck residents for help in establishing and maintaining affordable housing in the community. In 1991, a group of local residents raised the funds to buy a two-family house in Larchmont Village and soon thereafter installed two needy families. “It was a small contribution toward solving Westchester’s homeless family crisis, but it was a start,” said Ms. Silverstone.
In the years since then, I CARE has bought two additional two-family houses and established four more families in the Larchmont-Mamaroneck community. In addition, working with Washingtonville Housing, I-Care has built or bought three more houses. I CARE now provides homes to 12 families whose incomes are well below the median for our community. “In these years, dozens of children have grown up in safe neighborhoods and enjoyed the advantages of Mamaroneck schools,” said Ms. Silverstone.
I CARE was the brainchild of former Town Supervisor Dolores Battalia (now Town Justice), who served as its first president. Former Larchmont Village Trustee Benita Marks then took up the helm, and then Ms. Silverstone. A board of directors meets several times a year and sets direction. (There is currently a vacancy on the board; applicants are welcome).
To make a contribution, send checks made out to I Care to:
I Care, 740 West Boston Post Road, Mamaroneck, NY 10543.