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Aging out youth projects in NJ highlighted in Affordable Housing Finance magazine

It is always a pleasure to have New Jersey’s successful initiatives highlighted in a national magazine. Thus it was with real pleasure to read “Foster Kids No More
The youth housing revolution takes off
” in the May 2008 issue of Affordable Housing Finance. The article mentions the first two permanent housing for aging out youth projects in new Jersey – Life Link Homes developed by Robins’ Nest and Camden DREAMS by the Center for Family Services.

The article notes “From coast to coast, dozens of new communities like Life Link are being built to provide supportive housing to kids aging out of foster care, usually when they turn 18. A few years ago, these communities were rare, but now several states have put funds behind the developments. At the same time, the oldest projects have been operating long enough to show developers planning new ones how it’s done and what to watch out for.” According to the Government Accountability Office “Between 25 percent and 40 percent of the young people who leave foster care become homeless within a year”.

To read the full article click here.

The following is the opening of the article.

Foster Kids No More: The youth housing revolution takes off

AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANCE – May 2008

BY BENDIX ANDERSON

GRASSBORO, N.J. — Fire trucks have been called to the Life Link Homes here seven times since construction finished last October. No one has been hurt, and the fires caused no damage to Life Link’s 30 apartments, which provide permanent housing with services to young people just out of foster care. The tenants are old enough to sign apartment leases, but for the most part, they have little cooking experience. So they regularly set off smoke detectors with minor accidental fires, which automatically summon the firefighters.

“Serving aging-out youth can be challenging,” said Ruth London, chief operating officer of Robins’ Nest, Inc., a nonprofit developer and service provider that helps more than 4,500 children and young adults a year in New Jersey’s foster care system. “It can also be tremendously rewarding.”

From coast to coast, dozens of new communities like Life Link are being built to provide supportive housing to kids aging out of foster care, usually when they turn 18. A few years ago, these communities were rare, but now several states have put funds behind the developments. At the same time, the oldest projects have been operating long enough to show developers planning new ones how it’s done and what to watch out for.

Most of these projects will provide permanent housing along with supportive services. In permanent housing, the tenant signs a lease and has all the rights given to other tenants, including the right to stay in the apartment and renew the lease in most situations, provided he or she can pay the rent. From a renter’s perspective, it’s a step up from transitional housing, in which residents don’t sign a lease and can be thrown out at the landlord’s discretion for reasons including refusing to take a drug test or attend group therapy.

New York state plans to finance 400 new units of permanent supportive housing for youths under its New York/New York III agreement. A hundred of those have already started construction. In New Jersey, 160 units are in development, and officials are planning to build at least 40 more each year for eight years. In California, a state mandate has sparked eight projects in Los Angeles County alone. New developments are also under way in Minnesota and Connecticut.

“New ones are popping up all the time,” said Ruth Teague, an associate director at the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH).

This March, 28 foster-kid apartments were slated to open at the David and Joyce Dinkins Gardens in New York City. Developer The Jonathan Rose Cos., LLC, built the apartments to be similar to its other New York projects. In fact, at 500 square feet, the studios are actually a little large for New York. They are certainly larger than the dormitory-style apartments with shared kitchens that are common in transitional housing properties.

The only clues that the 85-unit building will soon house a different population than any of Rose’s other affordable housing properties are the community spaces, which include 2,500 square feet of classroom space for job training and will be open to all of the building’s residents.

The seven-story mid-rise also includes a 300-square-foot office for a case manager hired by Rose’s development partner, Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement. The nonprofit has been providing social services to the neighborhood since 1986.

To read the full article click here.

by Richard W. Brown

Richard W. Brown, has more than forty-two years experience in both housing development and community organizing. Since 1991 Mr. Brown has been the Chief Executive Officer of Monarch Housing Associates, the 1995 Governor’s Excellence in Housing Award winner in the organization category.. To read more about Richard and all of our staff click here. Click here to send Mr. Brown an email.

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