The Nevins Street Apartments in Downtown Brooklyn officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday afternoon, and 129 affordable apartments — including 78 supportive units reserved for formerly homeless people — are soon to be bustling with new tenants.
“This building takes the concept of Housing is Health Care to a new level,” said Jody Rudin, CEO of the Institute for Community Living, the not-for-profit organization that developed and is managing the building. “Tenants won’t just get a beautiful, safe place to call home, they’ll also get the whole health services they need to be better and stay well.”
The $72 million development stretches between an existing building, which was gut-renovated, and a new building constructed atop what had been just a parking lot.
On-site services including mental health counselors, case managers, literacy specialists and more will work with tenants to ease the transition out of homelessness and ensure they are able to stay safely and consistently housed. The complex will be home to formerly homeless veterans and young adults who have aged out of the foster care system, who are often blocked out of housing assistance programs.
The development was funded in part federal Low-Income Tax Credits and a $10.6 million loan from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s Supportive Housing Loan Program, and is part of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan to make housing more equitable and affordable statewide, according to the governor’s office.
“In the wake of the pandemic, it is critical that we take bold action to make New York a more affordable place for all, and that is why my administration launched a comprehensive $25 billion affordable housing plan to help ensure every New Yorker has access to safe, affordable housing,” Governor Hochul said, in a statement. “New York is committed to tackling the housing crisis with transformative projects like Nevins Street Apartments that drive neighborhood revitalization and provide New Yorkers with the support and stability they need to thrive.”
The Institute for Community Living operates shelters, transitional supportive housing units, and community living developments all over the city, mostly serving people and families dealing with homelessness, as well as young people living with severe mental illness. Mental and physical health services are available to tenants and residents, and the organization runs independent, community-based mental health clinics as well as the East New York Health Hub, which provides services including medical care, resources for families and case management.
Since March, a new Task Force assembled by Adams has conducted hundreds of “sweeps” of homeless encampments throughout the city, clearing away tents and other small, temporary shelters build by homeless people living on the street. While Adams has said outreach teams are working to move people off the streets, only a small number have accepted offers of a bed in one of the city’s homeless shelters. Advocates and homeless people say the shelters are often dangerous and leave residents without much autonomy.
Permanent supportive housing, like the new apartments on Nevins Street, offer affordable, comfortable homes for formerly homeless residents. With an organization like the Institute for Community Living providing education, connections to job opportunities and training, and more, supportive housing developments are often much more successful than shelters in keeping people housed long-term.
“Having your own place provides stability to build off of. I’m focused on getting my health back in order, getting steady work, getting my affairs back in order,” said Thomas Costello, a veteran who moved into the Nevins Street Apartments last month after experiencing homelessness for years. “And my caseworker is helping me figure out what’s next, helping me access medical care, and helping make sure I’m not hungry.”
The building also houses a classroom, community room, laundry facilities, and a computer lab, and will receive $1.9 million for rental assistance and services from the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative.
“We need to solve the crisis of homelessness with the crisis of housing, and I am proud to have supported a project as Borough President and now as mayor that helps us do exactly that,” Adams said. “This project represents exactly what we need more of in New York City: collaboration between city and state to provide affordable homes for families in shelters, New Yorkers struggling with mental health challenges, or veterans who have served our country bravely and need a place to call home.”
The 51 affordable units will be rented out at 60 percent or less of the Area Median Income, with studios and two-and-three bedroom apartments available to individuals and families making between $35, 418 and $86, 460, depending on the size of the apartment and the number of people moving in. Eligible New Yorkers can apply for the housing lottery online until May 20.
Less than half of the apartments in Brooklyn Community District 2, which includes Brooklyn Heights, are available to people deemed “low-income,” making 60 percent or less of the AMI per year, according to census data. Median gross rent in the district clocked in at a whopping $2,260 in 2019, according to the NYU Furman Center.
“The Nevins Street Apartments serve as an example of what should be kept in mind as new developments are being planned for and built in communities in dire need of affordable units,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “This development not only was built on a parking lot — bringing a much more valuable use to this land — but also reserves apartments that will cater to vulnerable populations, including the formerly homeless and at-risk young adults, and will have conveniently located amenities. All developers should be thinking this comprehensively when planning the future of city housing.”
Correction May 10, 2022, 10:45am: This story previously misstated the cost of the renovation and construction of the Nevins Street Apartments as $7.2 million, rather than $72 million.