Three supportive-housing projects were recognized here this November when the MetLife Foundation, in partnership with the Enterprise Foundation (now known as Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.), announced the winners of the MetLife Foundation Awards for Excellence in Affordable Housing for 2005. The prizes ranged from $10,000 for third place to $25,000 for the winner.

• The first-place award went to the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) for its Kerner-Scott House for formerly homeless adults. Nestled among trees on a quiet residential corner in the Cascade neighborhood of Seattle, the 40-unit project includes 25 apartments on the second and third floors reserved for people suffering from mental illness. Another 15 apartments on the fourth floor house chemically dependent adults in recovery.

DESC believes that a stable housing environment, free from the chaos of the homeless system, is one of the best services it can provide its tenants. But tenants can also access a variety of other social services, many located on the first floor. Participation is “fully voluntary for clients, but staff make every effort to make their services attractive,” according to DESC.

Since the project opened in 1997, many former Kerner-Scott House tenants have transitioned to more independent housing.

• Palladia, Inc., of New York City, won second prize for its Hill House development, where it provides permanent supportive housing to homeless individuals recovering from substance abuse. Located in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the Bronx, Hill House is one of the newest buildings on its block and often lures visitors off the street who, unaware of the project’s purpose, ask about getting on the waiting list.

Unlike in many supportive-housing environments, residents at Hill House are required to take some advantage of the comprehensive services provided. Almost 20% of the project’s 43 residents have lived there since it opened in 1999, and the overwhelming majority that moved on did so because their life situations improved.

More than 75% of the residents participate in substance-abuse counseling and are successfully maintaining sobriety, and most of the 10 residents who relapsed in the last year sought treatment.

• The third-place award went to Mercy Housing, Inc., for Decatur Place, a large supportive-housing project for single-parent families in Sun Valley, a poor neighborhood of Denver.

Decatur Place includes 106 two- and three-bedroom apartments. Mercy Housing purchased the big, four-story building in 1987 to rescue it from bankruptcy. The project was renovated in 2003, thanks to a recapitalization provided through the federal Mark-to-Market program.

Tenants come to the project from local shelters, domestic-violence programs and safe houses. Residents can take part in educational and counseling services. All the residents agree to participate in volunteer activities with Decatur Place and the surrounding community.

Property management

Another three organizations won awards for excellence in property and asset management:

• Bethany Hill School, Inc., won first place for its Bethany Hill School project, a 42-unit rental property in Framingham, Mass., for low-income individuals and families. The Sisters

of Saint Joseph of Boston and the

South Middlesex Opportunity Council rehabilitated a 1920s schoolhouse on 100 acres of semi-rural land west of Boston to create the housing. Maloney Properties, the property manager, offers residents a variety of programs to address their particular needs – whether substance abuse, emergency shelter, or developmental disabilities.

• The Urban Homesteading Assist-ance Board (UHAB) won second place for the Rogers Avenue Homesteading Hous-ing Development Fund Cooperative (HDFC). This 18-unit coop building in Brooklyn, N.Y., had been vacant for two decades before the UHAB conducted major renovations and opened it to families in 1994. Residents are primarily families with low to moderate incomes.

• The Better Housing Coalition (BHC) of Richmond, Va., won third place for Winchester Greens, a 240-unit, mixed-income community of new townhomes and two buildings of seniors housing set on 80 acres that once were home to the blighted Park Lee Apartments. Many former Park Lee residents who still live in the new neighborhood partnered to help develop Winchester Greens. BHC continues to manage the property, keeping the apartments full and well maintained. BHC plans to bring new retail spaces and more seniors housing to the neighborhood soon. n

During just a few years in the late 1990s, the neighborhood now known as Winchester Greens went from being a blighted, last-resort housing option to a mixed-income community of new, distinctive homes, walkable streets and inviting public spaces, without causing the displacement of any tenants.