On any given day, staff members at the Center for NYC Neighborhoods field phone calls from across the state on everything from reverse mortgages to home repairs. They are the front-line staff of the Center who work at the Homeowner Hub, which has outgrown its roots as a “call center” over the past few years.
“Hub” better captures the full array of services the staff handles: case management for home repairs; assistance in securing temporary housing for residents whose homes are undergoing rehabilitation through Build it Back; and brief flood insurance advice. As with any hub-and-spoke model, staff dispatch cases to our community-based Network Partners, assign work to subcontractors, and escalate the toughest cases to our Escalations team.
Today the new Hub is better equipped to adapt to homeowner challenges that have expanded beyond foreclosure prevention that peaked with the mortgage crisis. “We saw the need to develop from a simple referral system to a more complex set of services,” says Nicole Zajdman, who manages the Hub.
The public face of the Center
The Homeowner Hub has also become, in many ways, the “face” of the Center, with Hub staff often conducting field work, attending public events and directly engaging homeowners in their community. They are often the first people homeowners meet who work for the Center.
Hub staff are keen to make sure those first interactions go well. “For me, first impressions always matter,” says one staff member. “If people have a bad experience, that’s going to make them turn off right then, and they’re not going to want to connect with the Center.”
“We can see the whole lifetime of homeowner issues and address needs better.”
Hub team members come from a variety of fields, including criminal justice management, community-based land ownership, education and psychology, customer service, urban planning, public administration, social justice, journalism, political science and advocacy, and mental health.
Overall, the Hub fields between 50,000 and 60,000 calls each year. Staff take great care to make sure homeowners get the services they need. For example, staff recently went beyond the call of duty of a typical “call center” to help a homeowner whose house needed roof repairs and mold removal by connecting her with a rehabilitation program that offered a $10,000 forgivable loan.
The future of the Homeowner Hub
As more and more tech-savvy homeowners come to the Center for questions about their homes, there’s tremendous opportunity to incorporate new online technology, whether online chat or pre-programmed text message communications. The Hub has also upgraded its database systems.
Nicole says technology has played a big part in the Hub’s expansion, allowing staff to do higher quality referrals, to save time and money for homeowners and to see trends. “We can see the whole lifetime of homeowner issues and address needs better,” she says.
The Center is also considering the Hub’s future. One of the strongest opportunities for growth is in increasing the Hub’s presence at events across the city and the state. The Hub will also soon be supporting the New York State Mortgage Assistance Program and revamping how the Center handles foreclosure prevention information and referrals by enhancing our case management database. The Hub is intent on enhancing quality services for underserved neighborhoods, especially through in-house counseling and case management, rather than relying on external referrals.
“I’m excited to see the Hub establish itself as one of the main resources for homeowners in the city and the state,” says Nicole.
Homeowners can reach the Hub by dialing 311 in New York City or 211 in New York State and asking for the Center for NYC Neighborhoods or directly at 855-HOME-456. You can also contact them by clicking on the Get Help button at the top of the screen. Hub representatives will connect homeowners with high-quality housing counseling or legal services near them — at no cost to the homeowner.