CATHOLIC CHARITIES PARTNER
Catholic Homes New York develops safe, affordable housing for families and seniors, based in our belief that having a home is a sacred human right. In partnership with the Association of New York Catholic Homes, New York Institute for Human Development and in collaboration with the Archdiocese of New York, Catholic Charities of New York creates new affordable homes while preserving existing units, continuing decades of work building strong, sustainable communities through affordable housing.
Catholic Homes New York is an initiative led by Catholic Charities and the Archdiocese of New York that develops affordable housing for families and seniors throughout the Archdiocese of New York. In partnership with the Association of New York Catholic Homes (ANYCH) and the New York Institute for Human Development (IHD), Catholic Charities of New York creates new affordable homes and preserves existing units, continuing decades of work building strong, sustainable communities through affordable housing. Since the 1970s, during a national commitment to the development of low income housing, the Church has developed over 2,000 units of low-income housing for families and seniors throughout the Archdiocese. Today, in response to the tremendous need for affordable housing, Catholic Homes is working to ensure the preservation and development of affordable housing with a pipeline of new projects on church and affiliate owned sites.
Through the housing affiliates of the Association of New York Catholic Homes (ANYCH), the Archdiocese has a portfolio of over 2,300 units of affordable housing. In addition to these units, there are two projects in construction: St. Vincent de Paul (89 units for seniors); and Second Farms (319 units for families). With the completion of these Bronx projects the housing portfolio of the Archdiocese will total 2,700 low-income permanent housing units for families and seniors — including veterans, persons with special needs, and formerly homeless individuals and families. Our housing development efforts in New York continue the Archdiocese of New York’s historic deep commitment to poor and vulnerable families and individuals demonstrated through the activities of its parishes, schools, religious orders, Catholic Charities, and other ministries. These housing efforts are part of a rich history of work by Archdiocesan bishops, officials, pastors, priests, religious sisters and brothers, and lay women and men to meet the needs of the poor and vulnerable, and to affirm the right of people to live in dignity. This story reaches back into the work of the Church beginning in the 1970s, and looks forward into the future with the commitment of Cardinal Dolan and the Archdioces of New York to continue to build low-income housing for people in need, and to strengthen the communities in which they live.
History of Archdiocesan Housing
1970’s and 80’s
During the 1970s and 80s, in response to the availability of federal government programs for housing development, and the impetus of Vatican II’s imperative that the Church reach out and participate in the building of a better society, the Church of New York, through the leadership of parish priests, and committed religious and lay parishioners, began to define a Church role in housing development. These efforts included the work of Fr. Lou Gigante who, while at St. Athanasius Parish, founded the South East Bronx Community Organization (SEBCO), which by 1981 had created over 1,100 units of low-income family housing, and Fr. Robert Banome who, while pastor of St. Anthony’s in the East Tremont section of the Bronx, founded community organizations that provided housing and social services to the people of that community.
Msgr. Donald Sakano, who led the Archdiocesan housing efforts during the 1980s and 90s, worked closely with the City of New York to create housing for people living on the Lower East Side and in Harlem. Msgr. Sakano also developed and managed 2,400 units of family and senior housing in the Highbridge section of the Bronx. In addition, during this time over 2,100 units of housing for families and seniors were developed primarily through the efforts of local parishes and pastors. For example, at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Harlem, the John Paul II Apartments were established to house 90 seniors; on the Lower East Side at St. Mary’s parish, 600 units of family housing were developed as the Grand St. Guild; and, in Westchester, at Christ the King Parish in Yonkers, 60 units for seniors were created at the Woodstock Residence. These latter 2,100 plus units in 11 separate housing projects form the basis for the Archdiocesan affordable housing portfolio of today.
It is important to note that the Church, in addition to building permanent low-income housing, has also been present in the provision of social services through Catholic Charities, and fostered neighborhood and tenant community organizing efforts through its support of organizations like Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, South Bronx Churches, South Bronx People For Change, Lower East Side Catholic Area Conference (LESAC), and through the leadership of priests like Msgr. Neil Connolly. Often these community organizing efforts provided a gateway to development of low-income housing, as in the Bronx Nehemiah project.
As the housing commitment of the federal government declined and other factors contributed to the homelessness crisis of the late 80s and 90s, Archdiocesan parishes and agencies responded with emergency overnight shelter programs. Through the leadership of female religious, transitional supportive housing programs for homeless women and children were developed, including Fox House in East Harlem, founded by Sr. Florence Speth SC, and Thorpe House, founded by Sr. Barbara Lenniger OP. Three residences for homeless people with mental disabilities were established by Franciscan Father John McVean OFM.
Throughout this period and extending into the current Archdiocesan housing efforts, Catholic Charities and Archdiocesan officials were and continue to be very active at the Federal, State and Local levels in advocating for programs and services that would effectively and compassionately assist people who are homeless, and in advocating for funding and programs to create quality housing for low-income families and seniors. Archdiocesan housing advocacy efforts at the State level were coordinated with other New York dioceses through the work of the New York State Catholic Conference, located in Albany.
2006 New Archdiocesan Housing Office Established
In 2006, under the leadership of Cardinal Edward Egan, the Association of New York Catholic Homes (ANYCH) was established to assure the preservation of the portfolio of Archdiocesan low-income housing, to improve and sustain the quality of that housing, and to develop new low-income housing within the Archdiocese. The New York Institute for Human Development (IHD) was established as the Archdiocesan operating arm, with the twin goals of housing preservation and development. The ANYCH Board was constructed under the leadership of Msgr. Gregory Mustaciuolo, Vicar General, and Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities, to establish a governance reserve power model reflecting a unique collaboration of Archdiocesan officials, Catholic Charities, and the local housing entities which continued to exert local control of the individual housing projects in their neighborhoods. William Whiston, Archdiocesan CFO, David Brown, Director of Archdiocesan Real Estate, and John Reilly of Fordham Bedford Corporation, among others, brought extensive housing expertise to the Board.
Under the leadership of Melissa Pavone, Executive Director of IHD, extensive rehabilitation work was undertaken for the entire housing portfolio. Staff, consultants, and a retinue of architects, financial advisors, and general contractors were assembled to conduct the renovations. During the past 12 years over $300M has been invested in these rehabilitation efforts. For example, at Grand St. Guild over $90M was spent for new kitchens and baths, new roofs, masonry repairs, construction of a new maintenance building, outdoor amphitheater and landscaping, upgraded lobbies, elevators, security systems, and improvements to electrical and plumbing systems. At Carmel on Staten Island, a residence for 100 seniors, $21M created new bathrooms, kitchens, roofs, windows, and boilers. Upgrades were also made to lobbies, community spaces, and security equipment. At Haven Plaza on the lower East Side, a family residence for 371 families, in addition to $72M for renovation, $13M has been dedicated to building a new utility facility to withstand the kind of flooding that devastated downtown New York in 2012.
IHD staff and consultants, in conjunction with local boards, oversee the day to day program compliance of the managers of the 12 local housing entities. IHD, with its array of staff, consultants, architects, and general contractors is also the Archdiocesan entity charged with the implementation of new low-income housing construction, as discussed below.
New Development and Pipeline
In 2012, Susan Albrecht became the Executive Director of the ANYCH. Since that time, she has overseen the complex task of working with parishes, pastors, and local boards, while coordinating the financial, legal, architectural and construction advisors who participate in the pre-development stage of building new low-income housing for the Archdiocese. In addition to overseeing the pre-development and launching of the St Vincent de Paul and Second Farms projects mentioned above, the ANYCH staff is responsible for laying the groundwork for the planning and fruition of future permanent low-income projects. Currently the pipeline for new development includes over 1,700 new units of housing for families, seniors, and people with special needs to be developed over the next 10 years. These projects, in various phases of predevelopment, are part of the ongoing commitment to providing affordable housing to those most in need. Cardinal Dolan and the Church of New York have designated both available former parish properties and properties associated with the ANYCH portfolio for development. For example, the St. Augustine’s housing development, providing 112 units for low-income families and persons with disabilities, fully occupied in December 2018, was constructed on the site of St. Augustine’s Church, which was demolished when the parish merged with Our Lady of Victory.
Future of Archdiocesan Housing
The work of the Archdiocesan Housing office does not stand still. In the past two years, staffing has been strengthened to provide greater monitoring and oversight of the financial and program management of housing portfolio entities. Hiring of additional staff to buttress engineering oversight is planned. In March of 2018, James McSpiritt was hired as the CEO of Archdiocesan Housing. In the past 12 years, the staff of our housing office has increased from one to nine, a testament to the commitment and reach of this housing effort.
A significant development of the past few years and looking into the future, is the expansion of Catholic Charities Community Services in its role to support our tenants. In addition to assessment of community needs for the various housing entities, an office has been opened at Grand St. Guild, and assistance has been provided to support the parish of St. Augustine/Our Lady of Victory food pantry.
The story of the past 12 years is one of remarkable growth and achievement. It is a story of commitment and collaboration to fulfill the sacred purpose of assisting people to live in dignity. Sites, once sacred for the parish communities which worshipped there, continue to embody a sacred purpose in safeguarding and building quality housing and vibrant communities for the families, seniors, and people with special needs who live there.
Our housing development efforts in New York continue the Archdiocese of New York’s historic deep commitment to poor and vulnerable families and individuals demonstrated through the activities of its parishes, schools, religious orders, Catholic Charities, and other ministries.
Johanna C. Kletter
Catholic Homes New York
Senior Compliance Manager
Technical Project Manager
NY Institute for Human Development
Executive Assistant to Acting CEO
Executive Director, ANYCH
Associate Director, ANYCH