Published in the Concord Monitor on January 11, 2023
Coalition to add housing units
Former residence owned by church to be converted into apartments for unhoused persons
By MICHAELA TOWFIGHI
Concord Monitor staff
The Concord Coalition to End Homelessness will continue to add to its housing stock with a new purchase at 6 South State Street.
A residential home currently owned by the South Congregational Church will be converted into eight one-bedroom units to serve as permanent housing for people transitioning out of homelessness.
The church approached the coalition to purchase the property in hopes that its use would go toward a “mission-driven charitable purpose,” according to a project proposal.
Converting multifamily homes into apartments
for clients is not a new approach for the coalition. In November 2020, the coalition began its pilot renovation project at 10 Green Street. Now the nonprofit also owns residential buildings on Pleasant Street and West Street.
These permanent housing solutions help bolster the coalition’s Housing First model, which follows the philosophy that an individual needs stable housing above all to be successful.
Permanent supportive housing is an evidenced based method to support individuals as they transition into housing, according to Karen Jantzen, the new executive director of the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness. The practice is used by mental health centers and substance use disorder treatment providers use, which involves assigning a case manager to a client and working with them one-on one to connect with various support services.
Construction at the 6,500square-foot South State Street building – originally built in 1896 — will also include creating office spaces for caseworkers to meet directly with residents in the building.
This past year, the coalition more than doubled its goal of housing individuals. According to the organization’s Paths Towards Housing Solutions outline, which tracks different viable approaches to housing their clients, the aim was to get 10 individuals in homes during 2022. Instead, 23 people were housed.
The units at South State Street will continue to provide housing options for the 150 to 175 chronically homeless individuals in the Concord area.
“This is a permanent space for eight individuals. And that’s a significant amount of individuals experiencing homeless in our community to move eight into permanent supportive housing,” said Greg Lessard, the director of housing initiatives for the coalition. “This is a significant project that will have a significant impact on our community.”
To fund the project, the coalition applied for a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant from the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority. The Concord City Council approved an application request for the grant at its first meeting of the year.
The total estimated development costs are $2.3 million – $610,000 for the purchase, $1.4 million for construction, and $290,000 in other costs. The coalition will also pursue funding from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority Multifamily Supportive Housing Funds, the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority Tax Credit program and congressional spending grants in the federal budget through Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s office.
Construction is also set to begin shortly on the Pleasant Street building, which will involve tearing the house down to its studs and converting it into six one-bedroom apartments.
The Pleasant Street property also has a detached carriage house with two one-bedroom apartments as well.
One challenge that comes with converting multifamily homes in Concord to create additional units, is to not displace tenants
while pursuing the goal of creating more available housing options.
Currently, there are two tenants in the South State Street building, who will be eligible for relocation funds and assistance as a part of the city’s Anti-Displacement and Relocation Policy. The policy entitles the current tenants to relocation benefits such as moving expenses, security deposits, temporary housing and other costs that may be incurred as a result of the building sale.
Relocation assistance is only triggered due to the use of a Community Development Block Grant fund to finance the purchase of the South State Street building.
Securing appropriate funding for these projects can also be a year-long task. While the coalition finalized funds for its Pleasant Street project, individuals were temporarily housed in the unit in the interim. Now that funding is secured and construction is set to begin, these tenants will have to vacate the property.
“Providing housing even on a short-term basis seems like a better thing to do than just to say, ‘well, stay in your current situation because it might be too disruptive to us.’ We decided it was far better to give them that space even on a short-term basis,” said Lessard.
Caseworkers have been assisting the Pleasant Street tenants in finding new housing options while construction happens. The coalition hopes that the new units will be complete by July of this year.
The approval of block grant funds to support the coalition’s construction plans comes on the heels of the council’s expenditure of $35,000 last meeting to clean up a former encampment site on Locke Road.
The clean up, which required help from a professional organization due to hazardous waste and other materials on site, sparked a conversation among councilors about the long-term approach to solving homelessness in the city.
“I know Councilor Champlin said at the last meeting that tackling the homelessness issue, there’s not one solution. It’s going to be a series of different solutions to address that issue. And I think this is a good a good step,” said Nathan Fennessy, an at-large councilor. “It may only be eight people, but it’s eight people that we are moving to a better place.”
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