Supportive Housing Project Under Way in LA

By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

Los Angeles—Mercy Housing California has broken ground on Caroline Severance Manor, an affordable housing property in the Mid-Wilshire/Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles. Construction of the 85-unit property is expected to be completed by the spring of 2013. It is named for abolitionist and suffragist Caroline Severance (died 1914), who in 1911 was the first woman to register to vote in California, at age 91.

More than half of the apartments will be supportive housing. Thirty one-bedroom units will be designated for adults (aged 26 to 56) living with severe and persistent mental illness, while 18 of the larger units will be designated for families with children (birth to 15 years) who are dealing with severe emotional disturbances and who have been or are at risk of being removed from their homes by the county.

In partnership with the Los Angeles County Departments of Mental Health, the family units will be offered to Kincare Families—that is, households in which children are cared for by a relative other than their parent. The thinking is that to achieve the best outcomes for these children, the families will require the extra support that Caroline Severance Manor will provide.

The five-parcel property was assembled in partnership with the Community Foundation Land Trust of the California Community Foundation and the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, which owns a childcare facility on two parcels, and acquired two nearby parcels for a parking lot. The fifth parcel was acquired by the Land Trust to complete the assemblage. Other entities that have supported the financing of the development include the California Housing Finance Agency; the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles; Enterprise Community Partners; the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco; Los Angeles County; the California Endowment; and Wells Fargo Bank.

Mercy Housing California is the largest regional division of the Denver-based national nonprofit Mercy Housing Inc., which has developed and financed more than 40,000 affordable housing units nationwide since its founding in 1981. The organization anticipates some difficult times ahead for this kind of affordable housing development.

“We are more or less creating a perfect storm for lower-income people in America,” Doug Shoemaker, president of Mercy Housing California, tells MHN. “Not only do we have fewer resources to develop affordable housing, all of the proposed and current cuts to services for lower-income seniors and families are pushing people over the edge towards homelessness. While the dominant storyline seems to be that we can’t afford to fund these programs, the reality is we will cost our society a great deal more by pursuing these short-term cost-savings.”

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