Local developer donates $900K to fund low-income housing
Gary McLendon, Staff writer
A dream that has been fulfilled is now helping others. Funds used for low-income housing decades ago are being recycled to fund more low-income housing.
The I.C. Housing Development Fund Co., Inc., the local non-profit developer of the James A. Dobson Apartments, announced Wednesday it has donated nearly $900,000 to six Rochester-area agencies and 11 historically black colleges and universities.
“This has evolved from the dream of a few people in the 1960s, who stayed the course and who saw through a different lens how to overcome the difficulties of providing quality housing for low-to-moderate income people,” said Dorothy Dobson, former managing director of the apartment complex and widow of James A. Dobson, the first president of the I.C. Housing Development Fund.
The first residents moved into the Urban Park Apartments, now known as James A. Dobson Apartments, in October 1971.
“There wasn’t a minimum income you had to have in order to qualify (to live there), but you had to work,” said Luvert Walker II, president of I.C. Housing Development Fund.
The donated funds are proceeds from the sale of the former Urban Park Apartments, a 254-unit affordable housing complex to Preservation Management, Inc. in 2007.
“We are celebrating the fact that we are able to take proceeds from a facility designed for low-income housing and give it back to other facilities providing low income,” Walker said.
Dorothy Dobson spearheaded efforts which took over six years to gain needed court and federal approvals to distribute the funds.
Sojourner House, Action for a Better Community Inc., Veterans Outreach Center Inc., Catholic Family Center, Mercy Residential Services and Wilson Commencement Park are local organizations awarded funds.
“We’re thrilled,” said Mia Young, development officer of Sojourner House at PathStone. “I think the need for housing for low and moderate income individuals is still very real.”
In addition, funds are being distributed to Howard University, Benedict College, Coppin State University, Elizabeth City State University, Johnson C. Smith University, LeMoyne-Owen College, North Carolina A & T State University, Rust College, Texas Southern University, Voorhees College and Winton-Salem State University.
Each local non-profit organization operates an emergency and/or affordable housing program within its full range of family services. Also, each HBCU has executed U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-based programs, as well as implemented internship programs for their students. Some of the universities even established curriculum for community development degree programs.
Representatives from several HBCUs celebrated the announcement in the lobby of the former Urban Park Apartments located between Ford and VanAuker streets.
“You could do a lot of things with that money, but when you plow that back into re-creating what you have already achieved, then you are really doing the right thing. And that takes a big heart to do that,” said Rodney Green, executive director of Howard University’s Center for Urban Progress.
Howard University will use the award to leverage funds for improving housing in surrounding neighborhoods.
The event served as a reunion of sorts for members of the former Urban Park Apartments.
“Over 40 years ago it was just a dream,” said Paul Brennan, now of Auburn, an original board member. “This board was full of people who never took no for an answer. They kept adjusting and adapting until we got it right.”