Homes for our Heroes
By Greg Goldberg, Director, Citi Community Capital November 06, 2015 04:00 PM
None of our nation’s veterans should ever be without a place to call home. Yet on any given day more than 30,000 former servicemen and women are homeless. Thanks to a focus on the problem from multiple levels across both the public and private sectors, this is less than half the number it was just five years ago. Still, there is still more to be done to ensure that all those who have served our nation not only have places they can call home, but are also cared for and supported in any number of other ways, according to their needs and aspirations.
For the past 25 years, The New England Center for Homeless Veterans in downtown Boston has focused exclusively on helping veterans in need. Every night, more than 300 veterans are in permanent or some form of transitional housing at the organization’s landmark building on Court Street, while more than 1,500 are helped every year.
In recent years, as housing and service needs have grown and changed, space and flexibility in the Center’s century-old building had grown increasingly limited. Yet because the organization’s downtown location is close to numerous support services and to other veteran-specific facilities, the Center’s priority was to redesign and renovate the existing facility rather than move. Once they made the decision to renovate, however, it took the Center about two and a half years -- working with multiple levels of government and public and private partners -- to conceive of a new design that repurposed the historic structure into a state-of-the art facility.
Complicated as the physical renovation has been, financing it has also been complicated. In order to complete the project on time and on budget, all the parties involved had to move quickly. The $47 million project had historic and affordable aspects, multiple tranches of debt and equity, and multiple grants from - governmental and charitable organizations. Over the course of executing this transaction, approximately 20 Citi colleagues from all parts of the company -- including our Structured Lending & Investments group, credit, underwriting, originations, and our asset management staff -- rolled up their sleeves and pitched in.
We got the project off the drawing boards and into construction with a $20 million construction bridge loan in conjunction with a $17 million investment on Citi’s part in Low Income Housing and Historic tax credits through one of our partners.
Along with more housing for veterans, the updated Center will have a modern medical clinic, and provide substance abuse rehabilitation, job counseling and job training. Importantly, it will feature an entire floor dedicated to housing our women veterans, who in a few years will make up nearly 20% of the entire veteran population in the U.S.
Citi’s involvement in this financing was gratifying on both personal and professional levels. Coming from a family with several relatives who served in the U.S. armed forces, I felt that our involvement was a great way to support our veterans. I was proud to lead a team of Citi colleagues who worked with a single-minded focus to ensure that we delivered the financing that the Center required in order to make its vision a reality.
Confirming this, the Center’s president and CEO, Andrew McCawley, credited our involvement with gaining the confidence of other public and private partners so that the Center could move ahead from planning to construction. Our work on this important project demonstrates our deep commitment to both providing affordable housing and supporting our nation’s heroes.