Construction has begun on a $9.4 million, 18-unit affordable housing project in Long Island City, to be run by Hour Children, a nonprofit that helps women who have been to prison and their children.
The housing project is the result of three years of planning, according to Joseph Bieber, Hour Children’s housing consultant. The building, which will not only include affordable apartments but Hour Children’s main office as well, should be ready in a year and a half.
The minimum income needed to qualify for a two-bedroom apartment in the building will be $20,000, calculating that residents should only pay 30 percent of their income toward rent. The maximum income any resident can earn has been set at 48 percent of the area median income, less than the city’s usual 60 percent cap.
For women with a criminal record, getting a job can be a major challenge, especially in a tight economy, according to Victoria Shire, the New York deputy director of Enterprise, which helped Hour Children raise the money for the project from a host of agencies and companies. In addition, New York public housing excludes people who have been convicted of felonies.
“The primary obstacle that folks face is stigma,” Shire said.
Hour Children’s new housing unit will be the third permanent housing building the nonprofit operates, all of them in Queens. In addition, the organization runs three transitional housing facilities.
Bieber said many of the women who live in the new apartment building will come from within Hour Children’s existing programs, but that the nonprofit would look elsewhere for residents as well, focusing on previously incarcerated women reunited with their families.
The percentage of people living in Hour Children’s housing who end up back in prison is just 3 percent, Bieber noted, compared with a state recidivism rate of approximately 30 percent. “Clearly stable, affordable housing” has something to do with that rate, he said.
Hour Children was founded in 1986. Besides affordable and transitional housing, the nonprofit provides early-learning and daycare centers for the children of women in jail, as well as mentoring programs, job training, counseling and other supportive services.