Sprouting in Flatbush: CAMBA Gardens Affordable, Supportive Housing

By Jeffrey Steele, Contributing Writer

New York—New York City’s public hospital system, social service providers and non-profit developers have come together in a one-of-a-kind partnership to provide housing while simultaneously streamlining access to healthcare services in Brooklyn.

The result is the early November groundbreaking of CAMBA Gardens, a 209-unit LEED Platinum-Certified, affordable and supportive housing development to be built on two underused sites on the Kings County Hospital Center grounds.

The $67 million development will feature two six-story buildings with 132 studios, 29 one-bedroom, 33 two-bedroom and 15 three-bedroom units.

Of the total, 146 units will be permanent supportive housing with project-based rent subsidy for special-needs families and formerly homeless individuals. Another 61 units will be leased to low-income families earning no more than 60 percent of the current-year Area Median Income (AMI). The final two units will be for superintendents.

“Supportive housing is housing with services, which is targeted at specific populations,” Abby Jo Sigal, vice-president and New York director for Enterprise, a New York City-based organization providing capital for affordable housing development, tells MHN.

“In some cases, it’s people who are chronically homeless. In other cases, it’s folks wrestling with mental illness or addiction issues. If you provide permanent housing with appropriate services, otherwise known as supportive housing, the residents do much better in life. It’s a much more cost-effective way to work with these populations, and you end up with better outcomes.”

According to David Rowe, assistant deputy director with CAMBA Housing Ventures, based in Brooklyn, CAMBA Gardens will provide a variety of on-site services for residents. “It could be case workers assigned to work with residents to help them coordinate medical care, and get their entitlements in order,” he says. “Residents may want some help with health and fitness, with abuse issues, or help with legal services.”

Adds Sigal: “Social services could include affordable child care, job training and resume writing. The services are built around the needs of building residents.”

To get the project off the ground it was essential to ensure the community, hospital center and funding entities all understand the model, Rowe reports. Ultimately, they were sold on the savings flowing from the initiative. Residents will be able to simply walk to Kings County Hospital Center and partake of the services they need, whether it be annual physicals, mental health services or HIV/AIDS services. “There’s also the benefit that the people are getting regular health care, instead of using the emergency room regularly,” he adds.

In addition, some who of the front-line personnel who work at the hospital center may financially qualify to live in the housing, ensuring they will be able to live very close to their work.

“It’s a win-win, not only in locating the project on the campus, but in providing housing opportunities for those who work at the hospital,” Rowe says.

Applications for CAMBA Gardens are expected to be released in the spring and summer of 2013.

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