This story was originally published in Affordable Housing Finance.

Reaching New Heights and the Apartments at Landing Road development was recognized with the Community Impact Award from the New York Housing Conference.
Courtesy Bright Power Reaching New Heights and the Apartments at Landing Road development was recognized with the Community Impact Award from the New York Housing Conference.

A 200-bed shelter for people experiencing homelessness and a 135-unit permanent affordable housing development share the same building in the latest development by the Bowery Residents’ Committee (BRC).

The New York City–based nonprofit opened the co-located projects in the University Heights neighborhood of the Bronx, creating a new model for affordable housing in the city.

It’s the first project developed under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s HomeStretch program that brings together transitional shelter and permanent affordable housing.

Reaching New Heights, a transitional housing program for “unsheltered” individuals, occupies the first two floors of the building and opened in early 2018.

The Apartments at Landing Road provides 111 studio, seven one-, and 17 two-bedroom affordable apartments on the upper floors of the nine-story, energy-efficient building and opened its doors several months later.

“The focus of the apartments is to rent primarily to individuals who are leaving a shelter and who have achieved a level of stability and need an affordable place to live,” says Muzzy Rosenblatt, BRC president and CEO. “We wanted to provide housing that met their needs and met their level of affordability.”

A staggering 50,000 applications poured in for the 135 apartments.

The studio apartments rent for $470 a month and are targeted to individuals who are earning up to 35% of the area median income (AMI), which is in the low $20,000 range. The one-bedroom units are at 50% of the AMI, and the two-bedroom units are at 60% of the AMI.

The two projects have separate entrances and operate independently from one another. BRC also used different financing packages to fund the two projects.

However, residents of both developments share some of the same services, including a workforce development center that’s located in the building.

“When BRC delivers services, we deliver them to people, not people in certain situations and not other people in other situations,” Rosenblatt says. “We deliver them to our clients. Whether you’re in shelter or in housing, if you need access to services, you’re welcome to participate in them. In that sense, there’s a seamlessness between the two programs.”

BRC hopes to duplicate the model at other sites. The shelter serves as the base of the project in more ways than one.

“The strength of the innovation is the shelter contract,” Rosenblatt says. “Instead of paying rent to a private landlord, it is used to subsidize the housing. Basically, we are able to do more with the same amount of money.”

Rent is one of the biggest expenditures each year for BRC, which leases a number of commercial spaces to deliver its services, including shelters. The nonprofit houses approximately 2,200 people daily through its various housing programs.

BRC worked with Bright Power to integrate a 114kW solar photovoltaic system on the roof of the Apartments at Landing Road building.
Courtesy Bright Power BRC worked with Bright Power to integrate a 114kW solar photovoltaic system on the roof of the Apartments at Landing Road building.

BRC understood that it could be a stronger organization and do more if it were an owner and not a renter. Instead of paying a private landlord, the new project allows the organization to generate its own recurring rental subsidy. Every year that the shelter pays rent, it generates an income to create a subsidy to make the housing affordable. In other words, the shelter generates a surplus that goes to help cover the cost of the apartments.

“What we’ve done is expand the pipeline of resources that can finance housing affordable to extremely low-income people,” Rosenblatt says.

BRC also worked to minimize the long-term operating costs of the development by installing a 114 kW solar polar system.

Bright Power acted as the energy consultant and worked with the development team to integrate solar energy and other energy efficiencies into the building, which was designed by Edelman Sultan Knox Wood / Architects.

“Building operation budgets are very tight so if you can reduce the figure that you pay each money that is more money for your program and services,” says Jamie Bemis, account and market development manager, affordable housing, at Bright Power.

The building, which meets the Enterprise Green Communities standards, is achieving about a 19% reduction in utility costs overall, she says.

Bemis points out that the rooftop pergola design of the solar panel system provides a visual reminder of the team’s commitment to sustainability. “I think it’s a strong statement that it’s progressive in more than one way,” she says. “The programming is very innovative, and their commitment to sustainability shows they are innovative on that front as well.

The solar-energy system, which helps power the building’s common space, was funded through the JPMorgan Chase Foundation.

“It’s creating a savings for us that we’re able to pass on to residents,” Rosenblatt says.

This story was originally published in Affordable Housing Finance.