WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- The business mantra for Yonkers-based Westhab reads “Building Communities. Changing Lives.” The Westchester Bank helps them do it.
Westhab is the largest nonprofit provider of affordable housing and supportive services in Westchester County. Richard Nightingale, the President and Chief Executive Officer, said the Bank has worked with his business for nearly five years.
“They’ve helped our business in a lot of ways,’’ Nightingale said. “The most important thing is they took the time to understand our needs.”
Westhab’s business model is two-fold. It builds affordable housing, building and renovating nearly 2,500 units representing a public and private investment of more than $60 million. Westhab also helps more than 2,000 homeless or at-risk youth participate in youth programs. Families can also get help at community centers and workers can land jobs through its employment programs. It helps 500 public recipients land paid employment each year.
The Westchester Bank has helped Westhab with lending on the real estate development side, but most of its financing supports the social services Westhab provides on its operational side.
“It’s important for us because we can’t have delays,’’ Nightingale said. “At any time, since we’re working with a lot of government agencies, any piece of our revenue can be held up. There are times you need a little extra help. They’re willing to help us. If we can lay out an argument, they’ll work with us. That is immensely helpful.”
Operations compose the largest component to Westhab’s business. Nightingale said among its staff of 275 employees, three are involved in real estate development. All of the others work to assist residents with after-school programs, job placement, counseling, education, support for special needs populations and assistance in finding permanent housing.
“In a lot of ways, they allow us to do the work that we do,’’ Nightingale said. “We have seven after school programs that help 2,000 kids. They allow us to go do that work.”
Westhab recently expanded its services to the Bronx. Nightingale said The Westchester Bank responded to their needs when the business wanted to expand. “You can’t do anything if your operating needs aren’t met,’’ he said. “There are new after school and service programs and more lights to keep on. They’re the backbone of our operational side. We can’t do anything without them.”
Nightingale said the Bank is just not interested in big projects. Westhab recently closed a smaller transaction that is also essential to its mission. “The project made sense,’’ Nightingale said. “We explained to them why it mattered. They said sure, we’ll help you out. It was a complicated need, but they didn’t blink on it.”
Westhab found The Westchester Bank highly responsive from the outset. “There are some cookie cutter approaches out there,’’ he said. “They have no understanding of our missions. It’s not like that with The Westchester Bank. They’re very responsive, and you don’t get the feeling like you’re the low man on the totem pole. It’s that way with the whole team. We get that call right back.”