This article originally appeared in the B'nai B'rith Magazine winter 2018 issue. To read the issue, click this link.
B’nai B’rith has long recognized the need for safe, affordable housing for low-income seniors: a place where residents have their own apartments and live independently, while also sometimes sharing communal prepared meals in a group dining room.
Since 1971, B’nai B’rith has been a leader in this field. We have applied the knowledge we have gleaned from our senior housing efforts to the legislative arena, keeping regular oversight on legislation that may affect the elderly in the United States and around the world.
With 38 buildings in 28 communities, B’nai B’rith is the largest national Jewish sponsor of federally assisted senior housing in the United States. We also sponsor six buildings in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver; as well as “flatlets” in London and throughout the United Kingdom and Australia. B’nai B’rith’s first “parents” home opened in 1958, and is located in Haifa, Israel.
With seniors lucky enough to be housed in such apartments throughout the country, we find ourselves in the midst of an escalating affordable housing crisis. Millions of low-income persons are paying 70 percent or more of their incomes for shelter, while rents continue to rise and the construction of “affordable” rental apartments lags far behind the need. In 2011, B’nai B’rith opened the most recent of its senior housing properties funded through the federal Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly, the last dedicated “seniors” program administered and overseen in Washington, D.C.
Today, the program most available to provide funding for new construction, and, even more importantly, for the renovation and preservation of older units is the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Administered by the Internal Revenue Service. This program makes federal tax credits available to the private sector to encourage investments in affordable housing. Established in 1986, it has assisted in the creation and preservation of about 3 million apartments nationwide.
To date, the B’nai B’rith senior housing network has successfully benefited from the tax credit in St. Louis, for instance, where the Covenant Place apartment complex used the program to fund more than 35 percent of the total cost of renovating the property. The rest of the funds came from a major community capital campaign. The Coolidge at Sudbury apartments, in a Boston suburb, used tax credit financing as the major funding source for the new development.
Additionally, we are pleased to report that this past April, B’nai B’rith Senior Housing closed on a major refinancing proposal to renovate and modernize the Adelstein Family B’nai B’rith Project H.O.P.E. property in the Bronx, New York. The building was constructed in 1992 under the federal government’s Supportive Housing for the Elderly program. It consists of 100 residential apartments, 25 of them studios, and one unit for a live-in building superintendent. Rent for each residential unit is subsidized under the federal Section 8 Housing Assistance Contract program. New York State-issued bonds, coupled with the federal tax credits, raised the money to renovate the property.
The original Bronx project came about like many in the B’nai B’rith housing portfolio. It was 1979 when the vision of B’nai B’rith member Bernard Adelstein began to take shape. He foresaw a 100-unit development providing quality, safe and secure accommodations for seniors and disabled low-income citizens. But, it took 10 years for the vision to become a reality. Then, for 30 years, the property was a crown jewel of the community. But, as time went on, the building’s residents aged; some required more services to live independently, while others moved to more institutional settings — or died — and were replaced with new residents. Adelstein, who was most instrumental in initial building efforts, passed away in 2002, and many of the original board members retired from the property or passed on.
Adelstein’s sons Marty and Alan and daughter Sherry remained on the board. But improvements were needed, and financial resources were limited.
To best meet the continuing challenge of providing housing for low-income seniors, the Adelsteins met with officials of B’nai B’rith Senior Housing who introduced them to a developer familiar with the tax credit program. A new corporation, in which B’nai B’rith and the developer play leading roles, now oversees the project.
Not only does the new management intend to preserve the existing building for the next generation, it also plans to provide the financial resources for supportive and social services for the residents. Through partnerships with local organizations, for the first time, residents will have access to community resources, supportive listening and casework services and a host of new classes, workshops, events and regular activities.
With construction well underway, residents expect to see a completely renovated building by the end of the calendar year. During the work, residents have temporarily moved into other units within the complex, so there has been no displacement.
Apartments will include new bathrooms with new toilets and bath tubs; new kitchen cabinets, counters and appliances; and all new lighting and painting throughout. Exterior and common area renovations will include new masonry, replacement of exterior doors, new elevators, safety windows, plumbing infrastructure, boilers and pumps. It will also see the addition of smoke detectors and sprinklers and electrical and security upgrades.
Overall, the developer intends to complete $8.7 million of building renovations, at approximately $87,000 per apartment, at no additional cost to tenants. Additionally, all residents will now be supplied with window air conditioners. Previously, they had to provide their own units.
According to Marty Adelstein, president of the project’s original development corporation, “Everything seems to be going quite smoothly. Residents are very excited to see the transformation of their homes taking place before their very eyes and are looking forward to be living in a virtually brand-new building. We are truly grateful for the support and partnership provided by B’nai B’rith in helping to make this transformation possible…”
Further, discussions are currently underway with the developer and the city about acquiring an abutting three-acre lot for 1,000 more units of senior and veteran housing.
If you’d like to see B’nai B’rith senior housing in your community, contact the B’nai B’rith senior housing office in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recently renovated apartments at the Adelstein Family B’nai B’rith Project H.O.P.E. apartments in the Bronx, New York are decorated by the residents with items that reflect their tastes and interests. Photo credit: Courtesy of FHRC Management staff and EH&N Construction staff.
Mark D. Olshan, who holds a doctorate in psychology, is Associate Executive Vice President of B’nai B’rith International and Director of the B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services.
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