Habitat & WAIT House to debut joint project: 10 affordable apts. on Lawrence St.

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

Habitat for Humanity of Northern Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties is partnering with the WAIT House in a Glens Falls project on Lawrence Street that will provide 10 affordable rental units catering in part to the youths that are WAIT House’s mission.

A ribbon cutting and community tours of unoccupied units are planned on Thursday, April 6, at 4 p.m. The buildings are across the street from each other, at 37-40 Lawrence Street, with room to add more apartments, local Habitat director Adam Feldman tells The Chronicle.

He says he met Jason McLaughlin, new director of the WAIT House, through a consortium of eight to 10 regional organizations that focus on housing issues.

From left, Wait House director Jason McLaughlin, Habitat for Humanity director Adam Feldman, and real estate broker Lisa Grassi, whose $8,800 donation was “key,” Mr. Feldman said. They’re standing in front of one of the two renovated buildings on Lawrence Street. Chronicle photo/Cathy DeDe

“There is a desperate need for affordable rental units,” Mr. Feldman said he learned. He says he told the WAIT House chief, “I’m going to build this.”

“I can’t say enough good about Adam and Habitat,” Mr. McLaughlin tells The Chronicle. “This is a perfect fit for us and them.”

As with Habitat’s planned multi-condo project in Queensbury, this new effort is a step beyond Habitat’s traditional model of building one home for one family.

It’s also a step beyond the traditional objective of the locally created WAIT House, which is celebrating its 20th year of providing emergency and transitional housing for runaway, homeless and parenting young people in two adjoining houses in downtown Glens Falls.

“We have our housing program,” Mr. McLaughlin says, “for various age groups, not just teens. It’s called ‘rapid rehousing,’ to provide first month’s rent to get them started in transitional housing.

“Our focus is youth, but when anybody calls we want to connect them to services as quickly as possible.”

That program is in partnership with a STEP grant — “Solutions to End Homelessness,” Mr. McLaughlin spells out.

“The Lawrence Street location is perfect,” he says. “It’s a brand new rental apartment right on the bus line. It’s an opportunity for them to gain confidence, build up finances and save for their own home.” Rather than the fully supported housing at WAIT House, with case managers and programming on site, Mr. McLaughlin says. “This is a way to build independence, and to live self-directed lives.”

The second renovated apartment building once was the home of DeSantis Restaurant, famous for having served free meals to uniformed service members throughout World War II — an estimated 52,570 dinners. Photo/Cathy DeDe

“We’ll have case managers as they need. We can still help navigate systems and treatment,” Mr. McLaughlin adds.

“The ultimate goal is to provide a pathway from housing instability to home ownership,” Mr. Feldman says.

“The idea is to have a whole spectrum of affordable housing opportunities, from emergency shelter to transitional supported housing, to affordable housing and eventually, affordable home ownership.”

“This is about adding to our repertoire,” Mr. Feldman says. “Stable housing, stable work, stable life.”

Four of the 10 apartments are already completed and rented, Mr. Feldman said. The other six they hope to have done by mid-April or the first of May, he said.

The City of Glens Falls kick-started the $1.1 million project with a $200,000 grant through its $12.4 million ARPA grant from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. “That opened the door for us to borrow about $800,000 for the project,” Mr. Feldman said.

They also received funds through the Charles Wood Foundation, Glens Falls Foundation, and the Cloudsplitter Foundation, an Adirondack regional non-profit.

Peerless Construction is doing the building, and its property management arm will manage the rental units.

WAIT House will recommend potential residents.

Rent will be $900 to $1,100 a month, “fair market value,” as determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Mr. Feldman said.

“Most rentals around here go for $1,500 to $2,000,” he said. “There’s no affordable anything. This is a pathway to independence.”

Mr. McLaughlin says residents are expected to be employed, paying 30 percent of their income for rent.

“We will do what we can to help them maintain that,” such as connecting to job-finding services, he said.

Other organizations offer “wrap-around” supported services, Mr. McLaughlin said. “We partner with all of them.

Habitat owns the buildings, Mr. Feldman says. “Think of us as a developer with a heart of gold. Rental income goes to pay the mortgage. Our goal is not to be a profit center. Any income goes into more housing projects.”

Mr. McLaughlin says, “One thing is certain, what Covid did as a positive was to really bring our community providers together. We have monthly meetings of service providers to help us break through some of the barriers people face.”

From that effort, Mr. McLaughlin said, “This is a unique new partnership. The goal is not to put a Band-Aid on the problems, but get to the root issues, to build independence so that people can be living the life they want.”

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