Newark wants to give $2M to developers to build permanent housing for homeless

Posted Dec 03, 2020

Newark’s $2 million plan to finance permanent housing with on-site social services for people who are homeless could potentially save the city money while also helping to solve a longstanding issue, local officials said.

The city’s request for proposals to developers to build that housing is more than just a list of boxes that need to be checked off to receive funds: it’s a roadmap showing how Newark officials want to address an issue in a city that’s been eyed by Amazon for its corporate headquarters and has ushered in real estate projects worth millions.

“We really want to understand their case management plan, the homeless subpopulation that you intend to service - that you intend to target - and the level of engagement and the coordinated entry process,” said Newark Homelessness Czar Sakinah Hoyte in a Zoom conference Wednesday with prospective developers.

There were 1,859 homeless people in Newark during one night in January this year during Monarch Housing’s annual point-in-time count, which accounted for 86% of Essex County’s residents without addresses. About 350 of those were not in a shelter, the study said.

But the city wants more than just its homeless residents in shelters. It wants permanent housing with wraparound services. Newark officials in the Zoom meeting said the $2 million plan will get 100 units of supportive housing built, although the city put out a release that said it aims to create 300.

Newark could save some cash with its investment. The city said it spent $3.3 million in 2019 to shelter those who don’t qualify for county shelters, mostly those with mental health or drug issues.

Those are the ones who commonly have preconditions to housing, like sobriety or mental health treatment. The city’s so-called “housing first initiative” operates under the belief of a hierarchy of needs: give a person a home first and then other issues can be addressed.

“Housing is the only remedy to cure homelessness, and we will not rest until every resident of Newark has an address,” Mayor Ras Baraka said in a statement announcing the plan.

The $2 million will come from the city’s coffers, city officials said Wednesday. Each project must give a person access to organizations approved by the Essex County Continuum of Care that will provide social services on site.

“It’s literally the difference between a family being successfully housed and maintaining their housing and not,” said Newark Housing Authority’s Housing Choice Voucher Program Director Duane Knight. “The delivery of these wraparound services are critical.”

The city is looking to sell at least eight vacant properties it already owns for $2 a square foot for the project. The going price at that rate for each parcel of land would be about $5,000 to $7,000 based on the size of the parcel, which city officials said range from 2,500 to 3,500 square feet.

Those who already have an existing development and want to devote units with wraparound services on-site can also apply for the funds. The city will pay up to $500,000 per project, but no more than $50,000 per unit.

The Newark Housing Authority will also give up to 100 Section 8 vouchers, which will guarantee some rent for a selected project. The city wants each project to include a minimum of three units and a maximum of 30.

Proposals are to be submitted by Dec. 16 to [email protected] and grant awards will be announced in February. Each development is required to be completed within 18 months of the award notice.

“We don’t want something that’s temporary,” said Evans Anyanwu, a community development director in the city’s housing department. “We don’t want something of low quality. When we look at (all) proposals and they meet our housing initiative and our goals and a desire to provide supportive services to homeless individuals, that entity that best meets those obligations will prevail.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2020-12-04 02:54:57 -0800