MHN Interview: Company Pledges $750,000 to Support Affordable Housing Development

Enterprise Community Partners recently announced it will offer $750,000 in grant support to fund supportive and senior housing development. MHN talks to Victoria Shire, deputy director, neighborhood initiatives, Enterprise, about this new initiative.

By Jessica Fiur, News Editor

New York—Enterprise Community Partners, an affordable housing organization, recently announced it will offer $750,000 in grant support to fund supportive and senior housing development. MHN talks to Victoria Shire, deputy director, neighborhood initiatives, Enterprise, about this new program.

MHN: Tell me about the grant and the program for supportive housing.

Shire: Enterprise is providing $750,000 in grant support by the end of 2013. This is to assist the city and state in making more supportive and senior housing developments happen here in the city. We’re the first non-governmental agency pledging support to these great public agencies to meet the collective goal of doubling the amount of supportive housing available for vulnerable New Yorkers.

MHN: How does supportive housing help the community?

Shire: Supportive housing and housing with services for seniors is a proven cost-effective model to create better lives and better communities. Studies that have shown that when homeless individuals are provided with permanent supportive housing, their emergency room and hospital costs decline dramatically. We know that formerly homeless individuals with mental health issues living in supportive housing use less than a quarter of the public funding that they would use if they had remained homeless. We know that the elderly and disabled are the highest cost users of Medicaid in New York, so they have costly health needs and many of them rely really heavily on long-term care services including nursing homes, home health services and personal care.

By providing resources to assist in the development of supportive and senior housing, we’re at play in reducing the public costs related to health care, related to more expensive crisis intervention costs, like shelters and emergency rooms and the types of services that are just more complex to serve. Enterprise knows through our history of developing supportive housing that housing is a platform to deliver care and support to low-income individuals, which improves health outcomes as well as lowering public health care costs.

MHN: Why the decision to partner with government agencies?

Shire: Well everything Enterprise does is truly a partnership here in New York, particularly with our really excellent public housing agencies. The complicated real estate work, as well as the delivery of capital for both housing and the services, that’s not a “go it alone” enterprise. In fact, if you want to really go far and make a big difference, you need to work with your partners across the board.

MHN: Do you think this is a one-time thing, or does Enterprise plan to do this again in the future?

Shire: Enterprise has a history of making commitments like this to the city and to the state. From 2004-2009 we pledged a billion dollar investment in New York City towards the development of over 16,000 affordable homes. With the city and the state, this resulted in 3,000 units of affordable homes built annually. What’s different here is that we’ve taken a considerable amount of grant resources and joined with the city and state in making the focus on the development of senior and supportive housing, really ensuring that we’re caring for the most vulnerable among us right now. This is part of Enterprise’s national programming around vulnerable populations where we focus on supportive housing and housing for the homeless, where we focus on ensuring the low-income seniors have the ability to age with the services that they need. Our vulnerable-populations program also includes an emerging focus on ensuring that all our returning veterans have a place to live as well. So that is part of our national vulnerable-populations program, which is also implemented here in New York City. In New York City, the national platform is important because we have a national expertise. We have the ability to draw from what works across the country. We also know New York City really well—we’ve been working here for over 25 years, we’ve been working across the country for over 30 years, so we have a real track record for understanding how these kinds of partnerships work, what it takes to get policy change and deliver the programmatic solutions that are needed. This is one of our latest commitments that we are very proud of, but it’s certainly not the only place we support this kind of work.

MHN: Is there anything you want to add?

Shire: Supportive housing and housing for seniors is a tested solution that not only relieves public costs and is the right system perspective, but it’s also the right thing to do for individuals. At the end of the day, what we need to do for folks is giving them a safe place to live and the services they need to create an opportunity for themselves. Anything we could do to be a part of that is a step in the right direction.

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