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The Housing Council at PathStone:
A Resource and Lifeline Supporting Thousands a Year

“In 2019, we were just starting to see the tail end of the ripple effects from 2008. Given the impact that the pandemic has had on homeowners through job loss, wage loss, and lack of high-paying jobs in the area, we expect to be very busy, well into the next decade.”

These words were shared by Kelly Hallenbeck, director of programs and grants at the Housing Council at PathStone, as she recalls how prior to the COVID-19 pandemic she had been working with homeowners still experiencing the negative effects of the 2008-09 Great Recession.

The Housing Council at PathStone, certified by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and PathStone’s HUD intermediary program, has been providing housing-related services since 1971, serving more than 8,000 households annually.

As a part of the NeighborWorks Organizations network across the U.S., PathStone Corp., and the Housing Council as its largest component providing housing services, currently ranks as the following among the nearly 250 NeighborWorks Organizations:

  • #2 in the country in Counseling and Education Customers / #1 in the Northeast Region
  • #3 in the country in Total Individuals or Families Assisted with Affordable Housing and Counseling / #1 in the Northeast Region
  • #7 in the country in Homeownership Preservation/ #3 in the Northeast Region
  • #3 in the Northeast Region in Homeownership Promotion/22nd overall
  • #4 in the Northeast Region in Total Investment/26th overall

Throughout the pandemic, the services provided by the Housing Council to current homeowners has increased exponentially.

Mary Leo

Kelly Hallenbeck

“We provide guidance, counseling and advocacy to these homeowners, whether they’re having issues with their mortgage payments, looking to make capital or home improvements or get back on track with budget,” said Mary Leo, executive director of the Housing Council.

Hallenbeck recalled a recent session with a homeowner who was also a small business owner that launched their business right before the pandemic hit.

“They had started a catering business and invested money in that,” she recalled. “This led to issues making mortgage payments, and they couldn’t grow business. The team at the Housing Council held their hand through that. We knew we needed to make sure they stayed in their home. We were able to reinstate her mortgage, and get on them on positive side of all those concerns.”

Regardless of what causes the hardships someone may be going through, the Housing Council takes team-centered actions. Leo, Hallenback, and their colleagues collect information such as mortgage details, go over the person’s budget, their source(s) of income, what has changed, and put together a customized client action plan. The Housing Council team also conducts an assessment on available services and other supplemental services that may be of benefit within the organization or from other community partners. Every customized client action plan includes:

  • What was discussed
  • Summary of budget along with the council’s guidance
  • Housing Council’s suggested next steps
  • How the Housing Council would advocate for the client
  • What application process the council would engage in
  • Referrals to additional resources

“People aren’t fully aware that this free resource is available to them,” said Hallenback. “Many homeowners going through housing issues are experiencing other crises at the same time. There are no eligibility criteria, no income criteria to work with us. While we focus mostly on the City of Rochester, Monroe, and surrounding counties, we can work with anyone in New York State.”

The Housing Council also has a Housing Hotline, a free service where homeowners can call in with any question—simple or complex. Leo has stated that most of the calls this hotline receives, especially in the past year, are regarding rent.

“The community is facing a potential eviction crisis, and our role is to connect them with the right resources,” said Leo. “We have partnerships with the city and county to provide education to tenants about their rights.”

The eviction and mortgage moratoriums have been critical to support current homeowners and renters who have struggled to maintain housing payments. The Housing Council has been there every step of the way to guide these individuals and families through these stressful times, helping them find and secure long-term resolutions.

The Housing Council’s Pandemic Response:

  • 333 First-time homebuyers supported through counseling
  • 106 First-time homebuyers purchased homes
  • 96 homeowners achieved permanent mortgage modification (redesigned new mortgage payment)
  • 87 of the homeowners that the council worked with brought their mortgage current
  • 97 households have completed a workshop around tenants’ rights when working with landlords (part of the organization’s Renting 101 class that goes through rights, responsibilities of tenants, as well as important information about security deposits)

“We help make sure folks have the tools they need to care for their home and avoid delinquency,” said Leo. “One of our more under-the-radar services has been helping people secure long-term modifications. The government has taken important, necessary, and helpful actions to keep people in their homes. However, these temporary resolutions haven’t cured the hardship of knowing they’re behind on their mortgage or rent. Appointments to work with us are 100 percent free, 100 percent confidential. Just the act of talking with someone on what you’ve been going through has the ability to take the weight off the household.”

While most well-known for their support and guidance provided to homeowners and renters in the Greater Rochester community, some of the Housing Council’s most popular services are among small business landlords.

“We provide education to these landlords, local housing providers, and property operators, as well as provide a landlord ambassador program,” said Leo. The ambassador program supports landlords to improve their business and stabilize, upgrade, and preserve buildings for long-term affordability.

“We also offer landlords the opportunity and platform to post their openings on the Housing Council’s website,” said Leo. “It’s an extremely popular service.”

Be it homeowner, renter, or landlord, the Housing Council at PathStone has demonstrated time and again to be a critical asset to all aspects of housing in the Greater Rochester community. For 50 years, community residents have leaned on The Housing Council for support in times of need, be it emergency housing issues or providing guidance and education around the homebuying process. As our community navigates times of economic and financial instability, the organization has always been a stable presence, dedicated to increasing successful homeownership and tenancy experiences for all.

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