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Congregation Har HaShem and Bridge House Partner to Address Boulder’s Affordable Housing Crisis

Beginning in August, Bridge House and Congregation Har HaShem will partner to provide housing to six successful graduates of Bridge House’s award-winning Ready to Work program. Bridge House will rent two houses owned by Har HaShem and managed by Boulder Property Management. The rooms will be sublet to graduates of Ready to Work with full-time, mainstream jobs who will also receive aftercare case management. Bridge House will provide a subsidy of $400 per unit to ensure affordability for each tenant.

“Finding affordable housing in Boulder is difficult for anyone making less than 30% of median income or $15 an hour, 40 hours a week,” says Isabel McDevitt, CEO of Bridge House. “And it’s even harder for someone who has experienced homelessness or has an eviction record. Even with a steady job and Ready to Work’s aftercare services, our graduates still face a limited housing market and are at a disadvantage relative to other prospective tenants without a history of homelessness.”

The partnership represents an innovative way to develop a net gain of affordable housing without the significant financial investment or time required to build new units. And even purpose-built housing may require scarce subsidies to remain affordable. For a capital cost of $0 and an operating cost of less than $5,000 per tenant, this housing partnership is extremely cost effective compared to new units that can cost more than $350,000 each to build and more than $15,000 a year per tenant to subsidize.

The partnership has three additional goals: 1) to demonstrate that landlords can find responsible tenants and market-rate rents; 2) that low-income tenants can establish a successful landlord relationship and a path toward stable housing, and; 3) that an innovative private/non-profit partnership can address a pressing need in our community.

Under the agreement, Bridge House will lease two houses owned by Congregation Har HaShem and managed by Boulder Property Management. Bridge House will recommend prospective tenants from among the pool of successful Ready to Work participants seeking permanent housing. Boulder Property Management will screen candidates and select tenants who will rent units for 30% of their income. Bridge House will continue to provide one-on-one aftercare case management, weekly group meetings, peer mentoring, electronic communication and financial incentives to Ready to Work graduates.

Boulder Property Management, an independent, for-profit rental management company, will supervise the houses and serve as landlord’s contact for the residents. This will help Ready to Work graduates learn how to deal with a landlord and develop a third-party reference.

The partnership extends Har HaShem’s longstanding commitment to social justice and Boulder’s housing challenges.

“Congregation Har HaShem has provided more than 30,000 nights of shelter to homeless individuals over the last 10 years, more than any organization except Boulder Homeless Shelter and BOHO/Bridge House,” notes Rabbi Fred Greene of Har HaShem. “We have a longstanding commitment to making our communities more just.”

Together, Bridge House, Har HaShem and Boulder Property Management are changing the status quo in Boulder.

Bridge House is actively fundraising to support rental subsidies and aftercare services. Outcomes will be measured and the return on investment will be studied to determine the scalability of this pilot.

To learn more or get involved, please contact Alan Halpern, Executive Director of Congregation Har HaShem at ah@harhashem.org or email Isabel McDevitt, CEO of Bridge House at isabel@boulderbridgehouse.org.

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