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Affordable Senior Housing at Philadelphia’s Hardy Williams Veterans Center

Photograph of the front façade of a flat-roofed, three-story apartment building clad in brick, stone, and siding.The Hardy Williams Veterans Center provides 60 units of supportive housing for low-income seniors and formerly homeless veterans. Credit: HELP USA

The Hardy Williams Veterans Center, a $14.2 million permanent supportive housing facility in Southwest Philadelphia, opened in February 2014. Developed by the national, New York- based, nonprofit housing provider Housing Enterprise for the Less Privileged (HELP USA), the facility provides 60 one-bedroom apartments for low-income seniors and formerly homeless veterans aged 55 and over. The Hardy Williams Veterans Center is in a quiet residential neighborhood and features indoor and outdoor community spaces that allow residents to age in place and host a range of resident services.

Helping Homeless Veterans and Low-Income Seniors Age in Place

The three-story building has 60 units, 12 of which are reserved for formerly homeless veterans. Although the facility gives preference to veterans, nonveteran seniors who earn 60 percent or less of the area median income are eligible to live in the 48 nonreserved units. Rent is based on the resident’s income, and the 12 units for formerly homeless veterans are subsidized by Section 8 project-based vouchers. Each apartment easily accommodates accessibility aids and features ENERGY STAR® appliances, and energy-efficient windows and light fixtures.

Supportive services are provided by the Public Health Management Corporation, which works closely with HELP USA’s onsite property and case managers. Although the supportive services were put in place primarily for the formerly homeless veterans, all Hardy Williams Veterans Center tenants are eligible to participate. Services include twice-monthly wellness visits from a registered nurse, classes and educational workshops, life skills counseling, job training, and a link to social services from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. David Cleghorn, senior vice president of real estate development for HELP USA, reports that a major responsibility of the case manager is to ensure that clients can access all the benefits to which they are entitled.

The building’s amenities include two lounge areas, an exercise room, a computer room, a kitchen, and a second-floor patio. A community room is available to neighborhood residents and service providers. Each floor is decorated in a different color palette to help residents with wayfinding and features a laundry room and common space for socializing. The entire property is wheelchair accessible, with wide hallways to accommodate residents with mobility issues. The property’s designers took care to make the outdoor community space pleasant and welcoming, even turning a retention pond for stormwater management into an aesthetically pleasing water feature. A parking lot provides 41 spaces for residents, staff, and visitors.

From Disused Lot to Quiet Senior Community

Photograph of a sitting area with chairs and tables separated from a patio by windows and two sets of double French doors.To encourage socializing, the Hardy Williams Veterans Center features common spaces which include a lounge that opens onto a second-floor patio. Credit: Kramer+Marks Architects

HELP USA purchased the empty lot at 7100 Grovers Avenue in 2010, attracted by the site’s proximity to public transport, major employers, a grocery store and other retail opportunities, and a senior housing development. The neighborhood is quiet and residential, consisting primarily of single-family rowhouses with a few small garden apartment buildings. The nonprofit also had a 63-unit building with affordable family housing located less than 1 mile away.

Over a three-year period, HELP USA sought development financing through the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, a process that Cleghorn describes as the most challenging part of the development. In 2012, the LIHTC application for $11.6 million was approved. The remaining $2.6 million of the $14.2 million project was funded through grants from various organizations, including the National Equity Fund’s Bring Them HOMES veterans’ initiative, the city of Philadelphia, the MetLife Foundation, Citi Community Development, and the Home Depot Foundation.

Project construction was completed in February 2014. The staggered move-in process began immediately, and by May 2014, the center was fully occupied. As of June 2017, the Hardy Williams Veterans Center remains fully occupied and has a substantial waiting list. Approximately 65 percent of the building’s residents are veterans, a figure that Cleghorn considers typical for HELP USA’s veteran-targeted buildings.

HELP USA Expands Its Philadelphia Presence

HELP USA serves New York, Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Jersey, and Washington, DC, and focuses primarily on transitional and permanent housing for the homeless. The Hardy Williams Veterans Center is the nonprofit’s fourth building in Philadelphia and brings the number of HELP USA’s supportive housing units for the city’s veterans to 214. As part of the nonprofit’s goal to add 200 units of affordable housing nationwide every year, HELP USA’s fifth project in Philadelphia — a facility for veterans in a renovated school building — will be completed in August 2017. A sixth supportive housing facility is expected to be approved for development in 2018.

Source:

Interview with David Cleghorn, senior vice president of real estate development at HELP USA, 21 June 2017; National Equity Fund. n.d. “Hardy Williams Veterans Center.” Accessed 1 June 2017.

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Source:

National Equity Fund. n.d. “Hardy Williams Veterans Center.” Accessed 1 June 2017; Interview with David Cleghorn, senior vice president of real estate development at HELP USA, 21 June 2017; Correspondence from David Cleghorn, 5 July 2017.

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Source:

Interview with David Cleghorn, 21 June 2017; Correspondence from David Cleghorn, 29 June 2017.

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Source:

Interview with David Cleghorn, 21 June 2017; National Equity Fund. n.d. “Hardy Williams Veterans Center.” Accessed 1 June 2017; Correspondence from David Cleghorn, 5 July 2017.

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Source:

National Equity Fund. n.d. “Hardy Williams Veterans Center.” Accessed 1 June 2017; Interview with David Cleghorn, 21 June 2017; Correspondence from David Cleghorn, 5 July 2017.

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Source:

National Equity Fund. n.d. “Hardy Williams Veterans Center.” Accessed 1 June 2017; Interview with David Cleghorn, 21 June 2017; HELP USA. n.d. “Hardy Williams Veterans Center at HELP Philadelphia IV.” Accessed 1 June 2017; Correspondence from David Cleghorn, 5 July 2017.

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Source:

HELP USA. n.d. “Hardy Williams Veterans Center at HELP Philadelphia IV.” Accessed 1 June 2017; Interview with David Cleghorn, 21 June 2017.

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Source:

HELP USA. n.d. “About Us: History.” Accessed 1 June 2017; Interview with David Cleghorn, 21 June 2017; HELP USA. 2016. “Changing the Lives of Homeless Veterans,” press release, 11 January. Accessed 28 June 2017.

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