LGBT-friendly youth residence hits potential roadblock

LGBT-friendly youth residence hits potential roadblock

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The clock is ticking for a project that would create 30 units of LGBT-friendly housing for young adults.

A judge is expected to consider this month whether to allow the sale of several parcels of land currently owned by North Philadelphia Health System to Project HOME. The two parties entered into an agreement of sale in May 2016, but NPHS declared bankruptcy at the end of last year and, in court filings, has sought to halt the sale process as it moves through the Chapter 11 process. 

Project HOME and partners announced the project in October. Ground was slated to be broken in April on 1315 N. Eighth St. to develop a four-story building of one-bedroom units, laundry and exercise facilities, a community space and an outdoor courtyard. In a second phase, Project HOME intended to develop 40 units for young adults and adults, not necessarily specific to those who identify as LGBT. 

Delaying the $1.75-million sale could significantly threaten the future of the project, said Laura Weinbaum, vice president of public affairs and strategic initiatives at Project HOME.

Project HOME has lined up millions in city and state grants, tax credits and bond financing; the sale needs to be completed by August for that funding to remain viable. 

“The way the financing works, we really need to secure control of the land in time for about early July in order to still put the transaction together successfully,” Weinbaum said. “If we can’t close in August, then our other funding commitments and investors and all of that will be at risk. We need to know where we stand at this point. Time is absolutely of the essence.”

Weinbaum noted that backers have already sunk about $700,000 into developing the lot for hiring environmental consultants, engineers, architects and attorneys. 

Since there is federal buy-in for the project, the changing budget landscape could mean this is the only opportunity to get the project off the ground, Weinbaum noted.

“The federal government’s budget picture looks dismal so there may not be any second chance. We may not be able to resurrect this project if this goes by the wayside.” 

The impact of that reality on local LGBT youth would be devastating, Weinbaum said. 

About 40 percent of young adults who experience homelessness identify as LGBT. 

“We wanted to build something to meet the needs that are out there,” she said. “Certainly those needs are way greater than 30 units but we felt that was what we could do as a first project to exclusively serve that population.”

Project HOME incorporated eight LGBT-friendly young-adult units in its Jon Bon Jovi Soul Homes and 12 in its Francis House of Peace. It is in the midst of creating 20 LGBT-friendly young-adult units at its new residence at 2415 N. Broad St.

“We’re really hopeful we’ll be able to build this building to meet some really urgent needs for young people,” Weinbaum said about the NPHS lot. “We played by the rules. We had it legitimately appraised for the actual market value, made an offer that was fair and, at least on its surface, accepted. We signed the agreement well before the bankruptcy. It’s all very above-board from our perspective.”

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