Groundbreaking ceremony photo

November 14, 2019

New York State Announces Completion of $14.6 Million Innovative Emergency Shelter, Affordable and Supportive Housing Project in Syracuse

State Funding Helps Create 54 Units of Affordable Housing Near City’s Downtown Project Includes 11-bed Emergency Shelter for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals

The state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) today announced the completion of Freedom Commons, a $14.6 million 54-unit permanent affordable and supportive housing development that will serve low-income families and individuals. Located near the city’s downtown, the three-story structure was constructed using $6 million in state funding and will house the Freedom Commons Academy, a re-entry program with an 11-bed emergency shelter serving formerly incarcerated men and women experiencing homelessness.

“Formerly incarcerated individuals experiencing homelessness face an uphill battle during their re-entry,” Commissioner Mike Hein said. “Without stable housing, these individuals often find themselves falling back into patterns that originally contributed to their criminal behavior. Freedom Commons will assist these individuals with their immediate shelter needs and then provide them with the supportive services they can rely on to transition into permanent housing.”

Developed by Norstar Development USA, L.P. and designed by SWBR Architects, the project includes 43 apartments for families and individuals with household incomes at or below 50 percent of the area median income. The project also has 11 permanent supportive housing units for individuals and families with household incomes at or below 30 percent of the area median income whose head of household was formerly incarcerated.

Freedom Commons is the first upstate adaptation of an innovative model of housing launched by the Fortune Society in West Harlem. The model provides supportive housing to formerly incarcerated homeless individuals who are struggling with issues related to re-entry, including those with extended histories of substance use disorder, mental illness or both. In addition, residents are provided an array of services geared toward helping them maintain sobriety and become contributing members of their community. Fortune Society provided crucial technical assistance to the Freedom Commons project.

Located in a separate wing of the building, the Academy provides a three-unit, 11-bed emergency shelter with comprehensive re-entry services and safe, temporary housing for formerly incarcerated individuals experiencing homelessness. Residents of the shelter must commit to engage in services and learn skills critical for successful long-term re-entry, employment retention, education advancement, and maintaining healthy relationships. Individuals graduating from the Academy will be transitioned into permanent housing.

Freedom Commons relied on $2.7 million from the state’s Homeless Housing and Assistance Program, which is administered by OTDA. The project also received $949,108 through the New York State Homes and Community Renewal provided Low-Income Housing Tax Credits that generated nearly $10 million in equity and an additional $2.7 million in subsidy. The New York State Energy and Research Development Authority provided $58,300 in incentives. The Federal Home Loan Bank of New York with Member Bank Syracuse Cooperative Federal Credit Union provided $450,000 and the Central New York Community Foundation provided $100,000 through the Donald W. Ryder Fund. In addition, the project is receiving operating funding through the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative and rental subsidy through the Syracuse Housing Authority’s Section 8 Project-Based voucher program.

Freedom Commons is part of Governor Andrew Cuomo's commitment to providing all New Yorkers with access to safe, affordable housing which is reflected in the State's unprecedented $20 billion, five-year Housing Plan. The plan makes housing accessible and combats homelessness by building and preserving more than 100,000 units of affordable housing and 6,000 units of supportive housing.

New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “Freedom Commons brings 54 affordable homes to downtown Syracuse and offers a stable environment for formerly incarcerated individuals and their families so they can move forward on a path to independence. By providing housing in tandem with access to resources like counseling and workforce training, we can help New Yorkers in need remain safely housed and achieve success. Supportive housing developments like this one are part of Governor Cuomo’s efforts to combat homelessness in Central New York and across the state."

Senator Rachel May said, “It is very exciting to see this project come to fruition in Syracuse. Hopefully we can be a model for the state and country on how to better help our friends and neighbors re-integrate into life. By providing a safe space, community, and support services inside the building, we can create an environment in which people have an opportunity to make a better future for themselves. I look forward to seeing how this project begins to help our city. I am proud to join the Governor in providing the support necessary to realize this vision.”

Assemblywoman Pamela J. Hunter said, “It is a significant achievement to have Freedom Commons located in Syracuse. The affordable housing it provides will improve outcomes for many within our community and will significantly reduce recidivism among those who have served their time and are seeking new opportunities. This approach to housing will surely expand to other cities and I look forward to Freedom Commons serving as an important milestone in the progress that has already been shown through successful results by the Fortune Society in New York City.”

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said, “Freedom Commons helps address a growing need in Syracuse for quality and affordable housing, coupled with resources to help formerly incarcerated residents reintegrate into the community. This project is a shining example of the burgeoning revitalization of the South Side and will serve as a beacon of hope to those seeking a second chance.”

Center for Community Alternatives Executive Director David Condliffe said, “For many formerly incarcerated individuals, lack of access to stable, affordable housing is a serious obstacle as they reintegrate into their communities. Freedom Commons is designed to not only meet the immediate housing needs of those returning to Syracuse, but also provide a safe, supportive environment as they lay the strong foundation on which they will build the rest of their lives. We intend for Freedom Commons to be a cornerstone for both its residents and the Syracuse community.”

Fortune Society President and CEO JoAnne Page said, “When individuals leave prison, they face a range of challenges and urgent needs. If those needs are unaddressed, many individuals’ pathways lead back to confinement. Since we launched The Castle and Castle Gardens model, we have seen remarkable success. Individuals who spent decades in prison have earned college degrees, reconnected with their families, become responsible parents, landed steady employment, and are proud taxpaying residents in their communities. Our housing has made a major difference in New York City but there was nothing similar in upstate New York. Five years ago, then NYS Deputy Secretary of Public Safety Elizabeth Glazer asked us to replicate our model in one of the upstate cities that badly needed housing for homeless people with criminal justice history. We are thrilled to provide the technical assistance that has helped create Freedom Commons.”

Syracuse Housing Authority Executive Director William Simmons said, “The Syracuse Housing Authority will continue its efforts to increase the availability of affordable housing in the city of Syracuse as it continues through its phases of redevelopment in the surrounding area.”

Norstar Development USA, L.P. President Richard Higgins said, “Freedom Commons will not only provide modern, affordable and supportive housing with critical on-site services but will be an anchor for future redevelopment efforts in the community. As a LEED Gold Certified building, Freedom Commons will be an asset to the East Adams Street Neighborhood and the city of Syracuse and provide residents with centrally located, energy efficient affordable housing. Norstar was honored to partner with the Center for Community Alternatives, Syracuse Housing Authority, Fortune Society, and all of the funding partners that made this project possible.”

KeyBank’s Community Development Lending & Investment National Manager Rob Likes said, “Through our broad, fully integrated platform, we assemble innovative and complex financing in partnership with for-profit, nonprofit and government entities. Our team continues to make a difference in the lives of society’s most vulnerable citizens. Helping clients and communities thrive is not only our business, it’s also our mission.”

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