After its first decade of turning around and managing financially distressed real property, and providing decent, affordable housing for low- and moderate-income residents, Community Assisted Tenant Controlled Housing, Inc. (CATCH) embarked on an economic development program to establish and sustain operating companies that would provide quality employment opportunities for the residents of the buildings it manages. With a federal grant, CATCH established and capitalized a commercial and residential cleaning company – CleanCATCH Inc. — as a wholly owned, for-profit business subsidiary to provide the best cleaning and building maintenance services at an affordable price. This experimental program lasted about three years and was a valuable tool in learning how to provide residents of CATCH-affiliated housing and other low-income individuals with jobs and self-employment opportunities that fit their skills and experience; that provided opportunities for career advancement, and that provided livable wages.
Unfortunately, CATCH was unable to sustain the effort for two reasons. The first was that many of the residents we believed would work with us (based upon a survey of residents conducted by CUNY Graduate School) opted not to, primarily because they preferred to work off the books, even though they received no benefits. Secondly, we were not able to generate a sufficient volume of work to justify the fixed expenses of maintaining liability and statutory insurance coverage for the CleanCATCH employees engaged in apartment repair and preparation work. Currently, CATCH seeks to have contractors who provide apartment preparation, cleaning and upgrade services to agree to make a good faith effort to provide employment opportunities for our residents. In that way, we continue to use some portion of our internal demand to benefit our members and other community residents, but without the expense of maintaining a cleaning and apartment repair company.