Opening The Door To The American Dream

October 19, 2016

Benefit Fund programs help members pave the way to a solid financial future.

The economic crisis of 2007- 2008 was precipitated largely by a collapse of the sub-prime home mortgage market; these loans were peddled disproportionately to low income home buyers who were issued unfavorable terms—often by unscrupulous lenders. Many of these affected borrowers were eligible for standard, prime-rate mortgages, but because of lack of buyer education and lender oversight, the industry was rife with abuse.

New York 1199ers should have no such worries. The 1199SEIU Benefit and Pension Funds (NBF), through its Home Mortgage and Financial Wellness Programs, have helped scores of members create sound financial futures, repair their credit and purchase new homes. In 2015 alone, close to 1,200 members attended seminars, workshops and individual counseling sessions offered by the coordinating programs.

“When I arrived in New York from Nigeria in 1997, one of my goals was to eventually own my own home,” says Eghosa Ijiogbe, a CNA at Brooklyn United Methodist nursing home. “My Union came to my rescue and made my dream come true.”

Ijiogbe, who lives alone, considered a condo and a coop but decided she wanted her own land and backyard. In August, she moved into a three-bedroom home in Cambria Heights, Queens.

“Through the Program I found out that I could take out a low-interest loan against my pension to help with my down payment or closing costs,” she notes.

“I began the home-buying process by attending a seminar at the Union last year,” says Anthony Cardona, a housekeeper at Bronx Lebanon Hospital. He and his wife, Karen Cardona, a Bronx Lebanon phlebotomist, closed on their Middletown, NY, home in July. They commute each day from Orange County to the Bronx, along with their teenage son who’s in his last year of high school in New York City.

Cardona says that he was impressed with Mortgage and Financial Wellness Programs; they help members understand what documents and how much money it really takes to become a homeowner.

“We have a relative in Middletown, so he put us in touch with an agent,” Cardona notes. “The Mortgage Program also helped with the paper work and with answers to questions we had.”

Available to members are extensive support resources including a Homebuyer Education Course which covers a variety of topics critical for home ownership such as their readiness to buy a home, understanding credit, the loan process, down-payment assistance, insurance, fair housing laws and managing finances as a homeowner. The Home Mortgage Program also partners with community-based and reputable housing organizations such as the New York Mortgage Coalition (NYMC) and Neighborhood Housing Services, New York City neighborhood-based nonprofits focused on expanding opportunities for homeownership to and low- and moderate-income members. There’s also a loan available for eligible, vested members with $2000 or more accrued in either the Health Care Employees or Greater New York Pension Funds.

“I’ve been telling other members that they should attend the workshops to see what they need to do,” Ijiogbe says. “They may be closer to their dream than they know.”

While every day the programs help 1199ers realize the American Dream of homeownership, establishing financial literacy among working people is their central aim. Those with higher incomes can find a broad array of financial services, but low—and moderate—income working people are often stuck in debt or pay more for financial products. The NBF program helps members get and keep their finances on track with effective debt-management strategies, credit rebuilding and ways to budget and save money. Members learn that financial wellness gives them choices, whether it’s in the form of a house or peace of mind.

“The Mortgage Program helped enormously. And its representatives were expeditious and efficient,” says Robert Lewis Armstead, a housekeeper in Einstein Hospital in the Bronx, who closed on his house in the Bronx this spring. Armstead was able to pay part of the closing costs with his pension loan.

“Our Union benefits do not end when members leave the workplace at the end of the workday,” he says. “There is nothing like being able to pull into your own driveway.”

Home Buying Assistance & A Sound Future Is Just a Phone Call Away

The 1199SEIU Home Mortgage and Financial Wellness Department offers workshops about budgeting, credit, saving and money management. There are also fairs, forums and seminars for prospective homebuyers. Interested in learning more about the home-buying process? Call 646-473-6484 or email See the full calendar of events at