City Council Approves $600,000 for Dina’s Dwellings

A project that would provide long-term supportive housing for domestic violence survivors is one step closer to becoming a reality.

On June 18, the New Brunswick City Council approved $604,385 in HOME funds to benefit Dina’s Dwellings, a $3.4 million project that will transform the sanctuary of First Reformed Church into 10 supportive housing units.

First Reformed Church is a 300-year-old house of worship on Bayard Street with  deep roots in the history of New Brunswick.

The church, which has seen its members number in the hundreds, now draws about 60 people for Sunday services, as well as smaller congregations of various faiths and followings. Despite this, it has become too large and too expensive to maintain.

Dina’s Dwellings will consist of 10 long-term apartment units to house families affected by domestic violence. A smaller sanctuary space will be constructed for church services, as well as a meeting room, available for community use.

Tenants will pay about a fourth of their rent, with the rest to be provided by federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) housing vouchers.

All tenants will be referred to social service organizations throughout the area, including New Brunswick’s own Women Aware, as they work toward a new life.

They will be permitted to stay as long as needed.

The project is overseen by Town Clock Community Development Corporation, Inc. a nonprofit organization lead by Susan Kramer-Mills, Associate Pastor of First Reformed Church.

“The Town Clock Community Development Corp. is responding to a great need in our communities by creating 10 apartments for female victims of domestic violence and their children,” said Kramer-Mills. “Our housing project will be only the second permanent, affordable housing for battered women in the state, both of which are in Middlesex County. We hope to see this type of housing grow, as New Jersey continues to have an average of over 70,000 domestic violence reports each year.”

The project’s $3.3 million cost is to be funded by NJ-HMFA Community Block Development Grant Disaster Relief Funds, Bergen County United Way, a Planning Grant from the NJ Historic Trust, a Johnson & Johnson Planning Grant and private donations.

Groundbreaking is anticipated later this summer.

“The national “Housing First” model dictates that in order for a person to improve and change their lives, their need for stable housing must be met,” said Mayor Jim Cahill. “The City of New Brunswick is proud to support Dina’s Dwellings and will continue to make supportive, affordable shelter available to as many residents as possible.”

HOME Investment Partnership Program Funds are annually allocated by HUD and are intended to fund projects that create and expand affordable housing. They also go toward strengthening affordable housing programs offered by state and municipal governments.

New Brunswick’s 2014-2015 HOME allocation is $347,458, and has been budgeted toward other housing projects in addition to Dina’s Dwellings, including Unity Square Homes, which entails five three-bedroom single family homes around the Unity Square neighborhood, affordable housing rental units at The George and supportive housing at four locations in New Brunswick.

Dina’s Dwellings is the latest venture in the City of New Brunswick’s standing commitment to supportive housing, which has entailed more than $1.6 million in HOME funds spent on housing for New Brunswick’s homeless residents.

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