Project Category: Building Affordable Housing
Organization Name: Cleveland Housing Network, Inc.
Organization Website: http://www.chnnet.com
8301 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44102
Project Cost: $13,750,051
The Commons at West Village is part of Cuyahoga County’s Housing First Initiative, a collaboration between Cuyahoga County’s Office of Homeless Services and five of the county’s most experienced nonprofits. The initiative was created in 2002 to end chronic homelessness and has since developed 710 units. Since the first Housing First building opened in 2002, Cuyahoga County has experienced a 77% drop in long term homelessness, and for those housed through Housing First less than 2% have returned to homelessness.
The Commons at West Village is the tenth completed permanent supportive housing building in the Initiative. In addition to its mission, the $13 million project was located to leverage the momentum of the revitalization of the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. The building is located on the western edge of the Detroit Shoreway Arts District – one of the city’s most successful models of innovation and market regeneration. The Arts District has served as a catalyst for renewed industry, arts and culture, and a growing demand among all income levels for its housing stock. The Commons serves as one of the driving forces behind Detroit Shoreway’s vision to push the boundaries of its revitalization efforts and reinforces the neighborhood’s commitment to a diverse, mixed income community.
The Commons provides 66 one bedroom, fully furnished apartments and onsite supportive services to the chronic homeless and 25 veterans. The building meets Universal Design Principles, and offers a community room, computer lab, 24 hour on-site front desk staff, and is equipped with state-of-the-art security cameras.
The project is funded through Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), but also is supported through HOME funds (city, county, and state), the Federal Home Loan Bank’s Affordable Housing Program, Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, the local Continuum of Care, and other grants.
Current Status: Completed in November 2016, the building reached 100% occupancy by mid-February 2017
Community Needs Addressed:
First and foremost, the project provides a nationally recognized evidence-based solution to addressing the needs of Cuyahoga County’s most vulnerable population – the chronically homeless. The Housing First model provides a permanent, stable home followed by on-site supportive services tailored to the individual needs and backgrounds of each resident. Residents are not required to use these services, but most do as they work to integrate back into the community. These services significantly reduce the use of emergency rooms, emergency shelters, etc. and provide stable and consistent access to care to address their multiple needs.
The County’s 77% drop in chronic homelessness since the first building opened in 2006, plus the fewer than 2% of Housing First residents who return to homelessness are evidence of the model’s success.
In addition, the Commons at West Village serves as a missing link to the physical fabric of the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. When a local mental health provider that had served the community since the 1980s closed its doors, Detroit Shoreway was left with a large, defunct administrative building in a densely developed section of the neighborhood. Existing state-held legacy debt on the property posed significant challenges for redevelopment. An extended period of blight would have stalled revitalization efforts in this critical part of the neighborhood. The Housing First use for this site was able to satisfy the state-held deed restrictions, allowing the project to move forward and restore vibrancy in this area of the neighborhood.
Benefits and outcome:
Prior to the Housing First Initiative, Cuyahoga County had no permanent supportive housing options for the long-term homeless. Unable to succeed in independent housing, these individuals languished in shelters or withstood the harsh reality of life on the streets. Today, 710 permanent supportive housing units are occupied or in development. With less than 2% returning to homelessness, Housing First is having a direct, long term impact on residents’ lives.
The experienced services that are provided on-site are critical to the success of the initiative as well as the health and well-being of its residents. For example, the number of residents with no income declines from 46% at move-in, to just 21% at follow-up. Furthermore, the health conditions of many Housing First residents often require long-term, consistent care. Since the addition of the Housing First mobile health clinic in 2015, 2,758 appointments have been completed with 482 unique patients.
The Housing First model represents a major cost savings to our community – the chronically homeless represent just 20% of homeless population but use 70% of the resources (i.e. emergency shelters, emergency rooms, psychiatric hospital stays, etc.). These emergency interventions are far more costly than stable housing, and the on-site services provided by the Housing First model are effective in reducing emergency room visits and other costly services.
Lastly, Housing First has invested $115.3 million in local neighborhoods since our first building opened in 2006. Our positive impact on both vulnerable populations and community development has generated support from Cleveland’s local community development organizations, neighborhood organizations, law enforcement, and local government and political leaders.
Project partners and collaborators:
Housing First is a coalition of public and private organizations whose mission is to establish the permanent supportive housing model in Cuyahoga County, Ohio in order to end chronic homelessness in our community. The operating partners are: Cleveland Housing Network as lead developer and co-owner, Emerald Development & Economic Network, Inc. (EDEN) as co-developer, property manager and co-owner, FrontLine Service as lead service provider, and Care Alliance as the mobile clinic provider. Enterprise Community Partners and Cuyahoga County’s Office of Homeless Services are coalition leaders. The Commons at West Village also partners with Veterans Administration to house 25 veterans at all times in the building.
To enhance community support for the Commons at West Village, the Housing First team partnered closely with the community’s local councilman Matt Zone and Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization. Councilman Matt Zone and Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization worked hand in hand with the Housing First team to devise a community outreach plan that ultimately succeeded in generating wide-spread support and collaboration among local community residents.
What makes your project unique?
The Commons at West Village experienced specific development challenges requiring an innovative approach to problem solving including: devising a legal and community strategy to overcome a local NIMBY legal challenge, gaining support among public and private project funders for a delayed timeline due to the legal challenge, and embracing a new zoning format (Urban Form Overlay), a first in Cleveland’s neighborhoods.
After the project received a 9% LIHTC award, it faced a successful zoning variance challenge by an adjacent investor/owner — causing the project to come to a halt. In short, the project could not move forward without a significant effort to upgrade the zoning plan for the 10-block section of the neighborhood. The project’s development team recognized that overcoming these issues would require not only an extension of LIHTC deadlines, but a wider range of support among local organizations and community residents.
First, the partners negotiated support from public and private project funders on a delayed project timeline, pushing back the placed-in-service deadline a full year. Secondly, the local Councilman (Matt Zone) and CDC (Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization) successfully accelerated their efforts to re-zone an entire 10-block revitalization area, including the project site rendering the zoning challenge moot. . Thirdly, the Housing First team worked with adjacent residents to craft a win-win solution that provided them with additional land for expanded backyards and off-street parking.
The project is also unique in that it is the first building in Cleveland to utilize the Urban Form Overlay – established to create a enhanced walk-ability and design quality along Cleveland’s urban streets. It requires pedestrian-oriented building features, enhances the architectural character of new and existing buildings, and protects public safety.
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