Community to House Formerly Homeless Vets Celebrates Grand Opening

By Erika Schnitzer, Associate EditorBronx, N.Y.—Inner City Development, the Community Preservation Corporation (CPC), ENPHRONT Veteran Services, and city and state housing officials recently celebrated the grand opening of the $5.8 million Jackson Avenue Veteran Complex, seven three-family row homes that were built to house formerly homeless veterans. CPC provided $4 million in permanent financing, which will be sold to New York City pension funds, including The New York City Employees’ Retirement System, The New York City Police Pension Fund, and The Teachers’ Retirement System of the City of New York. The State of New York Mortgage Agency (SONYMA) has provided mortgage insurance for all of these loans.“The goal is to provide shelter for vets, give them services they need to figure out where they want to go from here, and help them make that next step,” says Bruce Dale, senior vice president and regional director at CPC, who adds that there are at least 55,000 homeless vets of recent wars in need of housing.Designed by architect Matthew Markowitz, the Jackson Avenue project was not originally targeted toward homeless vets, Dale explains. Instead, Inner City Development originally planned to sell the homes on the open market, but when the economy began to collapse and the company realized it would be difficult to sell the homes, they decided to reposition the project.“In hard times, you have to be imaginative and find alternatives to solutions,” Dale tells MHN. For this project, “We sat down and tried to figure out how to make this work. [The developers] had to put in more equity than they had originally hoped, but we figured out a formula, based on rents that vets would be able to afford, to make financing work as long as CPC was able to sell the loan as a permanent mortgage to New York City pension funds,” he explains.The development offers two- and three-bedroom units to single male veterans. Rents range from $650 for a one-occupancy bedroom with a private bath to $530 for a shared-occupancy bedroom. An average of three to four vets will reside in each unit.The Department of Veterans Affairs, which referred all of the veterans to ENPHRONT— a not-for-profit charity that provides housing advocacy—and Inner City Development, will provide case management for all residents. Each building also has communal space where services will be administered.  Services will include job training and placement courses, legal assistance, educational assistance, financial responsibility and budgeting programs, individual counseling with caseworkers, and access to a wellness center and computer resources room. In addition, the NYC Mayor’s Office of Veteran Affairs and Con Edison will provide reduced rates on electricity to residents, who will not have to pay a water and sewer bill.Dale hopes that the Jackson Avenue Veteran Complex will provide a model to be reproduced for additional housing for veterans, adding that he hopes CPC has an opportunity to engage in a project to aid female vets.