FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Project Incorporates “Safe Haven” Model to Serve Chronically Homeless and Hard-to-Reach Individuals; Will Include Apartments and “Drop-In” Center

Newark, NJ – New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) executive staff today joined local officials and community leaders to celebrate the groundbreaking of A Better Life, a supportive housing project for chronically homeless individuals. The project will incorporate a “safe haven” model, which is a form of permanent supportive housing administered under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) McKinney Vento Supportive Housing Program. The model focuses on serving hard-to-reach homeless persons who are living on the streets and have been unwilling or unable to participate in homeless services or shelters. New Community Corporation, a non-profit organization in Newark, is the developer.

The project will include studio apartments, respite units, shared community space, social services offices, a medical office for basic clinical care, a commercial kitchen to prepare meals for homeless persons, and a “drop-in” or engagement center, which is intended as a first-stop for homeless individuals who have historically been resistant to services or housing previously offered to them. Services at A Better Life will be provided by Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care.

Providing supportive housing for special needs populations is part of HMFA’s ongoing commitment to increasing the availability of and accessibility to quality, permanent and affordable housing for individuals and families across New Jersey. HMFA awarded A Better Life $3.1 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Disaster Recovery funds through the Sandy Special Needs Housing Fund, which was created in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy to provide subsidies in the form of zero- and low-interest loans to developers of affordable supportive housing in the nine counties the federal government designated as the most impacted by the storm. HMFA also provided more than $4.4 million in construction financing for the project as well as 4% Low Income Housing Tax Credits, which are expected to generate nearly $2.7 million in private equity.

“A Better Life is a significant first for permanent supportive housing in New Jersey,” said HMFA Executive Director Anthony L. Marchetta. “We are pleased to report that this is the first HUD ‘safe haven’ model to be developed in New Jersey. In fact, it is part of the Essex County and City of Newark 10 year plan to end homelessness.”

“Also, because people with special needs, such as chronic homelessness, were particularly hard hit by Superstorm Sandy, we awarded the project CDBG Disaster Recovery funds to better reach and serve homeless individuals who might be facing other challenges such as health problems, mental illness, and substance abuse,” Marchetta said.  

The project involves the construction of a two-story, 24,063-square-foot building on four vacant lots in Newark’s West Ward. It will include 20 studio apartments and three respite units. Each apartment will be approximately 360 square feet with a kitchenette, living room/bedroom, and a private bathroom. The shared community spaces will be used for socialization, meetings, and other activities designed to discourage tenants from isolating themselves in their apartments. 

In addition to housing, the project, which is within walking distance of public transportation, will include office space for social services staff to provide counseling, healthcare treatment, and perform administrative functions. The “drop-in” center is a critical component of the project since it will serve as a portal to provide outreach and services to individuals so they can become engaged and move in to housing. Many of the target population have been homeless for years and need targeted services to bring them into supportive housing.

“A Better Life will close the gap in housing and services for those homeless individuals who, for whatever reason, have refused help or have been denied or removed from other homeless programs,” Marchetta said.

One of A Better Life’s goals is to reduce the overuse of the emergency healthcare system among homeless people by providing them with access to primary healthcare and chronic disease management services.

“As the developer of A Better Life, we at New Community Corporation are proud to partner with the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, an affiliate of the state Department of Community Affairs, to make this supportive housing project a reality. Nearly 50 years ago, New Community was founded with the vision to provide safe, decent and attractive housing to the most vulnerable members of society, including homeless families and low-income seniors and families. A Better Life will provide much needed support to chronically homeless individuals, including veterans, who often face mental health issues and need our help the most,” said Richard Rohrman, CEO of New Community.

Tenants will not pay rent because the project’s operations will be subsidized by a HUD Shelter Plus Care award, providing $1,022 per housing unit, per month. The City of Newark was awarded 20 Shelter Plus Care vouchers for the project in the 2010 HUD Continuum of Care application. This will provide a subsidy in the amount of $245,280 per year.

HMFA estimates that during construction the project will generate more than $13.1 million in one-time economic output, defined as the total value of industry production, such as sales and business revenues. During construction, the project will also support approximately 79 direct and indirect/induced full-time equivalent jobs, and more than $482,000 in state and local taxes. Upon completion, A Better Life will continue to have a positive economic impact on Newark and Essex County by providing more than $1.47 million in ongoing economic output, nine direct and indirect/induced full-time equivalent jobs, and more than $83,000 in state and local taxes annually. These Economic Impact Analysis figures were estimated using multipliers derived from a 2013 study entitled “Economic and Fiscal Impacts of the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency’s Investment in Affordable Housing,” conducted by HR&A Advisors, Inc., a real estate and economic development consulting firm.

For more information on the Sandy Special Needs Housing Fund and other HMFA programs, please call 1-800-NJHOUSE or (609) 278-7400, or visit


Lisa Ryan 
or Tammori Petty
(609) 292-6055