Bringing Nature to Supportive Housing in the Bronx
Built in the Bronx by longtime New York City-based service provider Project Renewal, Bedford Green House consists of 117 total units, 71 of which are reserved for people with prior experiences of homelessness, people living with HIV/AIDS, or for families dealing with mental illness or substance use disorder. Photo credit: Joshua Bright
Permanent supportive and affordable housing can significantly improve outcomes for many people, including those with previous experiences of homelessness, people living with HIV/AIDS, or families dealing with mental illness or substance use disorders. One project in the Bronx, Bedford Green House, combines a robust service program tailored to serve these groups with innovative biophilic design features to further help residents, including a rooftop greenhouse that facilitates horticultural therapy. Built by longtime New York City-based service provider Project Renewal, Bedford Green House consists of 117 units; 71 units are reserved for people representing these target groups, and the remaining 46 units rent to households earning no more than 60 percent of the area median income. Eighty units are studio apartments, 25 have one bedroom, and the remaining 12 units have two bedrooms. The project opened in 2022.
Leveraging Federal, State, and Local Funding Sources
Development costs for Bedford Green House totaled $72.4 million. Federal funding included $22 million in equity generated from the sale of low-income housing tax credits. The state contributed $6.8 million from its Homeless Housing Assistance Program (HHAP), which provides grants and loans for the creation, acquisition, or preservation of housing for people experiencing homelessness. Created in 1983, HHAP was the first program in the United States to provide significant resources specifically for the development of housing for people experiencing homelessness. The city contributed $20 million in bonds and subordinate financing through the New York City Housing Development Corporation and an $8.9 million subordinate mortgage through the city's Supportive Housing Loan Program. The remaining funding sources for Bedford Green House included more than $600,000 in grant funding from TD Bank, nearly $4 million in deferred developer fees, and approximately $10 million from a settlement resulting from contractor bankruptcy.
Green Features Promote Health Equity
Bedford Green House hosts green features that improve building performance, promote residents' health, and give the building a distinct appearance. The building, which is LEED certified, features cascading plants that will eventually cover the building's façade. The planted exterior absorbs sunlight in the summer months to reduce cooling costs and, when the leaves shed in cooler months, allows solar gain to help heat the building. The abundance of plants surrounding the building, including in the rooftop greenhouse, also addresses a common inequity along class lines in access to urban green spaces, which deprives lower-income communities of the shade and air filtering benefits that plants provide. Children living in the Bronx are 21 times more likely to be hospitalized from asthma than are children living in more affluent areas of the city.
Providing Residents With a Holistic Service Model
Project Renewal was founded in 1967 and has gained a breadth of experience in operating supportive housing developments and delivering services to clients. This experience helped inform the design of Bedford Green House, with in-house practitioners from the social services, healthcare, and occupational therapy departments contributing to the design plans to ensure that the building optimally meets the needs of both staff and clients.
Horticultural therapy in the rooftop greenhouse complements Project Renewal's robust service offerings and gives residents a unique way to develop skills in the activities of daily living. In addition, the greenhouse serves as an intergenerational social space, a place to connect with nature and grow food, and a place of calm and healing. Photo credit: Project Renewal
The inclusion of the rooftop greenhouse and an aquaponics facility (a system of growing plants in water synergistically with fish), along with the decision to include horticultural therapy in Bedford Green House's service program, stems from Project Renewal's conviction that occupational therapy could help Bedford Green House residents learn to function more independently, says Eric Rosenbaum, Project Renewal's president and chief executive officer. According to Rosenbaum, case management alone may be useful for connecting residents to services, benefits, housing, and employment, but it does not typically incorporate the development of skills needed to manage activities of daily living, which horticultural therapy provides. In addition, the greenhouse encourages increased access to sunlight during the winter months, which can relieve symptoms of depression. The greenhouse's calming space, designed with the input of the occupational therapy team, is both therapeutic and deeply meaningful, because caring for the plants offers residents a powerful metaphor for recovery, says Paul Woody, vice president of real estate at Project Renewal. The greenhouse also offers other benefits: the inviting space attracts people of all ages, encouraging social interaction and reducing isolation among the development's seniors. Bedford Green House also features a community room for other social events, including holiday celebrations, musical events, cooking classes, and meetings of various interest groups, providing opportunities for frequent resident interaction.
When it purchased the site for Bedford Green House, Project Renewal also acquired an adjacent parcel where a second phase of Bedford Green House is under construction as of fall 2023. The second phase will consist of 116 apartments, with nearly half set aside for seniors. The second phase will also house a 5,000-square-foot medical facility that will also serve current Bedford Green House residents and offer primary care, pediatric care, podiatry, radiology, and other services. Currently, Project Renewal offers residents of the development's first phase onsite psychiatric care, primary care delivered through a medical van, and substance use treatment. Additional amenities in the second phase will include a gym, a library, and a learning center. The second phase of Bedford Green House will cost approximately $70 million and is expected to open in January 2025.
New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. 2022. “Mayor Adams, Project Renewal Open 117 Supportive, Affordable Homes with Aquaponics Farming in the Bronx,” press release, 14 July. Accessed 25 October 2023; Joint interview with Eric Rosenbaum, president and chief executive officer, Project Renewal, and Paul Woody, vice president, real estate, Project Renewal, 12 October 2023; ESKW/Architects. n.d. “Bedford Green House. Bronx,” Accessed 1 November 2023. ×
New York City Housing Development Corporation. 2017. “Federal, State, and City Officials Join Project Renewal to Break Ground on Bronx Supportive and Affordable Housing Development Featuring Rooftop Fish and Produce Garden and Living Green Façade,” press release, 17 November. Accessed 25 October 2023; New York State Office of Housing and Supportive Services. n.d. “Homeless Housing and Assistance Program (HHAP).” Accessed 25 October 2023; New York University Furman Center. n.d. “Directory of NYC Housing Programs — Extremely Low- & Low-income Affordability (ELLA).” Accessed 25 October 2023; Correspondence with Paul Woody, vice president, real estate, Project Renewal, 25 October 2023.×
New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. 2022. “Mayor Adams, Project Renewal Open 117 Supportive, Affordable Homes with Aquaponics Farming in the Bronx,” press release, 14 July. Accessed 25 October 2023; Shivani Shukla. 2020. “Racial Disparities in Access to Public Green Space,” Chicago Policy Review, 23 September. Accessed 25 October 2023. ×
Joint interview with Eric Rosenbaum, president and chief executive officer, Project Renewal, and Paul Woody, vice president, real estate, Project Renewal, 12 October 2023. ×
Joint interview with Eric Rosenbaum and Paul Woody, 12 October 2023; New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. 2022. “Mayor Adams, Project Renewal Open 117 Supportive, Affordable Homes with Aquaponics Farming in the Bronx,” press release, 14 July. Accessed 25 October 2023; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. n.d. “Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions,” Accessed 25 October 2023. ×
New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. 2022. “Mayor Adams, Project Renewal Open 117 Supportive, Affordable Homes with Aquaponics Farming in the Bronx,” press release, 14 July. Accessed 25 October 2023; Joint interview with Eric Rosenbaum and Paul Woody, 12 October 2023; Project Renewal. 2022. “Project Renewal Breaks Ground on Bedford Green House II in The Bronx,” blog, 20 December. Accessed 25 October 2023; Supportive Housing Network of New York. 2023. “Project Renewal Tops Off Bedford Green House Phase II,” The Network, 17 July. Accessed 25 October 2023. ×