DePaul Rochester View Apartments was designed and developed to meet the needs of the deaf and hard of hearing community.

The 61-unit development is in Henrietta, N.Y., near Rochester, which has one of the largest and youngest deaf populations in the nation. There’s an estimated 42,000 to 50,000 people who are deaf or hard of hearing living among the metropolitan area’s 1.1 million residents.

The Rochester School for the Deaf, the Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, and the National Center for Deaf Health Research are all located in the area.

DePaul Properties, a local nonprofit affordable housing organization, has a long history of working with the deaf, including those who are mentally ill. It has had deaf individuals living at its various housing developments, but it decided to go a step further and develop an entire deaf-friendly environment. It is the first development of its kind in New York.

“The deaf as a whole make 30% less in their lifetime than hearing people,” says Mark Fuller, DePaul president. “There’s a huge need for affordable housing.”

Rochester View helps fill the need for housing and alleviate the isolation that deaf people often feel. Thirty-three units are for residents earning no more than 50% of the area median income (AMI), and 28 units are for those earning no more than 60% of the AMI. The project is open to other low-income residents, but about 60% of the residents are deaf, estimates Fuller.

DePaul and SWBR Architects worked closely with the deaf community to get Rochester View right.

Line of sight is a critical consideration throughout the project. The reception desk, the community room, and the lobby are all connected spatially or with windows. Computer lounges are oriented so users face obliquely to the open walkway, rather than having their backs turned. Wide corridors allow two residents to walk while using American Sign Language (ASL) and leave room for a third resident to pass. Apartment plans are as open as possible, allowing someone in the kitchen to see throughout the unit.

The units also feature enhanced supports to accommodate tenants who are deaf, hard of hearing, and those using American Sign Language (ASL). Every apartment has a video phone that includes a connection to a vestibule intercom system. The video phone, the apartment doorbell, and the fire and carbon monoxide alarms are all wired to strobe lights and available bed shakers.

Rochester View earned the Community Impact Award from the New York Housing Conference.

The $17.6 million community was financed with multiple sources of funding, including $6.6 million in low-income housing tax credit equity from First Sterling.