Home Adds a New Chapter to Helping the Needy

BALTIMORE After beginning as a home for a wealthy family, the Margaret Jenkins House served as an orphanage and a school for African- American children, a soup kitchen, a residence for nuns, and a retreat center.

Its latest use, permanent housing for 22 low-income women with intensive service needs, might be its greatest work.

Long owned by the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, the property was recently sold to Homes for America (HFA) and the Women's Housing Coalition (WHC). The two nonprofit organizations wanted the site to continue to serve Baltimore's needy, so they remade the building into a home for women recovering from homelessness, abuse, drug addiction, or HIV/ AIDS.

“The continuity of use thrills the sisters, many of whom worked in this building for much of their lives,” says Trudy McFall, HFA chairman.

At the $3.6 million development, residents receive an array of on-site support services aimed at increasing selfsuffi ciency. Units are reserved for women earning no more than 30 percent and 40 percent of the area median income, with all units subsidized by Sec. 8.

The project was one of the most challenging of HFA's 65 affordable rental projects. The building was renovated into 21 single-room occupancy units with private baths and one efficiency apartment. Three units and all common spaces were made fully accessible. Each adjacent two units share a kitchen. The shared-kitchen design has worked well at another property managed by WHC but created some challenges in using different funding programs.

The developers overcame those issues to receive funding from 10 sources, including $2.3 million in low-income housing tax credit equity.

The project also benefited from the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, which allowed the development to fix the credit rate at 9 percent and changed the way that HOME funds could be treated. —Donna Kimura

Formerly Homeless Get Boost

LONG BEACH, CALIF. The 26-acre Century Villages at Cabrillo is considered to be the largest, most comprehensive residential and social services complex for homeless in the nation. It became even larger when the 81-unit Family Commons at Cabrillo opened in March.

Family Commons brings to fruition the continuum of housing for families on the campus, which already included emergency shelter and transitional housing. The $32.6 million development features one-, two-, three-, and four-bedroom apartments, and has 40 units set aside for families who were previously homeless and have one or more members who are disabled. Fifty-four of the original 80 families living at the development were previously homeless, and the average family living at the development earns 32.5 percent of the area median income.

“When these folks were coming into this apartment complex, there was one family where the father was so overcome with emotion, he couldn't move. That's when I knew we were doing something special,” says Ron Griffith, Century Housing president and CEO.

Century Villages has partnered with PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) Ventures to provide services. PATH Ventures and Century Villages secured nearly $1 million in annual supportive-services funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Supportive Housing Program through Long Beach's Department of Health and Human Services and California's Mental Health Services Act through Los Angeles County. Services include mental-health counseling, after-school tutoring, and child care.

“Our main goal is to increase self-suffi- ciency. We play a supportive role,” says Anna Topolewski, director of services and administration at PATH. “Our families are amazing, and what they've done in the past few months shows me the future is going to be very bright for them.” —Christine Serlin

Project Marks Firsts for Common Ground

BROOKLYN, N.Y. Scale models of classic cars line the windowsill of a new supportive- housing apartment at Schermerhorn House—a sign that after seven years of planning and construction, residents have finally begun to move in.

The high-rise tower provides permanent housing for 116 formerly homeless individuals living with HIV/AIDS or suffering from mental illness and 100 affordable apartments for low-income persons from the arts and entertainment industry.

“Schermerhorn House represents many firsts for us,” says David Beer, director of real estate development for Common Ground.

It's the supportive-housing pioneer's first project to provide permanent supportive housing outside of Manhattan. Free land lured Common Ground to cross the East River when HS Development Partners offered to donate 20,000 square feet at its two-acre townhouse and condominium development site in downtown Brooklyn. State officials insisted that before HS could build planned condos, a certain amount of affordable housing needed to be up and running.

Schermerhorn House, designed by Susan T. Rodriguez of Polshek Partnership Architects, is also Common Ground's first building newly constructed from the ground up. Until now, Common Ground's projects have rehabilitated historic buildings in Manhattan. In contrast, Schermerhorn House is an 11-story tower of glass and steel built over three separate subway tunnels. Building the four massive steel trusses added as much as $13 million to the project's $59 million total development cost, according to Beer.

It's also Common Ground's first mixeduse project to include a live performance space. The tower includes a 2,000-square-foot black box theater space, managed by Common Ground's development partner, The Actors Fund.

Schermerhorn House is also Common Ground's first supportivehousing project financed with tax-exempt bonds.

The development improves on what Common Ground has been doing for years. Its supportive-housing apartments are targeted in particular to people who have lived on the streets for years and are often passed over by homeless programs. —Bendix Anderson

Fostering a Fresh Start

LOS ANGELES Rayen Apartments was built to help some of the roughly 1,200 youths that age out of foster care each year in Los Angeles County as well as low-income families.

One of the first developments built with funds from Los Angeles' new Permanent Supportive Housing Program, the Rayen integrates the two populations to create a diverse community, with the families serving as role models for the young adults, says Lee Milman, director of housing and development at A Community of Friends.

The Rayen has 25 units for formerly homeless emancipated foster youths and 23 affordable apartments for working families. There are five units for those earning no more than 30 percent of the area median income (AMI); 20 units at 35 percent of the AMI; and 23 units at 50 percent of the AMI. All apartments have Sec. 8 subsidies to keep rents low.

The development is conveniently located next to a service center operated by Penny Lane Centers, which will provide case management and mental-health services geared toward the emancipated foster youths as well as a range of services for all residents.

The Rayen is also notable for its sustainable design. It has 14 solar panels on the roof that will provide up to 60 percent of the heat for the project's water. The development also has a white roof with thermo-shield that reduces heat penetration into the building.

The $15.1 million development was built without permanent hard debt. It was financed with about $10 million in low-income housing tax credit equity from Enterprise Community Investment, Inc., and $4.5 million from the Los Angeles Housing Department. Union Bank provided a $4.4 million construction loan. —Donna Kimura

Project Also Home to Library

MIAMI Carrfour Supportive Housing, Inc., set out to rehab a vacant transitional housing building into a shelter for women and children almost nine years ago in the East Little Havana neighborhood, after winning the bid from Miami-Dade County.

But after spending a year trying to obtain city permits, Carrfour changed its strategy. Because the property was zoned for apartments, the developer requested and was awarded low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs) under the homeless set-aside. However, a county commissioner was disappointed because he thought the property would be a great location for the county's Hispanic Library, which had outgrown the space it was in.

What resulted from these conversations is something the developer, county, and city could agree on. Villa Aurora is a $28.8 million 12-story development that includes 39 units of permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless families, 37 units of affordable housing for families and seniors earning less than 60 percent of the area median income, a parking structure, Carrfour's administrative offices on the top floor, and the new 12,000-square-foot Hispanic Library on the ground floor.

“It's the most exciting project I've encountered,” says Doug Mayer, Carrfour's vice president of development. “It's a really interesting mixed-use project that could be a model for others around the country.”

Carrfour will provide an array of services for the formerly homeless.

Villa Aurora was financed with $20.7 million in LIHTC equity syndicated by Enterprise Community Investment, Inc., and $3 million from Florida Housing Finance Corp.'s State Apartment Incentive Loan. It also received $2.95 million from Miami-Dade County Public Library and HOME funds from the city and county. —Christine Serlin


Developers: Homes for America and Women's Housing Coalition

Major Funders: Enterprise Community Investment, Inc.; City of Baltimore; State of Maryland; Maryland Department of Housing & Community Development; Abell Foundation; Women's Housing Coalition; France- Merrick Foundation; Knott Foundation; Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.


Developer: Century Villages at Cabrillo, Inc.

Major Funders: John Hancock Realty Advisors, Inc.; City of Long Beach; Century Housing; Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco with First Federal Bank of California


Developers: Common Ground and The Actors Fund

Major Funders: New York City Housing Development Corp.; New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development; New York State Homeless Housing Assistance Corp.; The Richman Group


Developer: A Community of Friends

Major Funders: Enterprise Community Investment, Inc.; California Tax Credit Allocation Committee; Los Angeles Housing Department; Union Bank


Developer: Carrfour Supportive Housing, Inc.

Major Funders: Enterprise Community Investment, Inc.; Florida Housing Finance Corp.; City of Miami; Miami-Dade County; Miami-Dade County Public Library