There has been a great deal of excitement surrounding a recent article in Crain’s about the launch of The Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation. The Fund is confident that the timing is right for this exciting venture; the creation of new residences for people in the arts.
Housing for arts professionals has been a part of The Actors Fund for more than 100 years.
The award winning Lillian Booth Home in Englewood, New Jersey provides state of the art care for seniors. For more than 15 years, The Fund has created additional affordable and supportive housing for those working in the performing arts and entertainment field. These residences include The Aurora in Manhattan, the Palm View in West Hollywood, and The Schermerhorn in Brooklyn; combined they represent more than 550 units of affordable housing.
Last year, federal legislation was passed clearly stating that Artist housing qualified for federally funded low-income tax credits. The low-income tax credit program is the most important source of financing for affordable housing. While current economic problems pose great challenges for the real estate community, it also creates opportunities for not-for-profits to acquire property that might not otherwise be available.
The significance of affordable housing was clearly illustrated at two Actors Fund holiday gatherings. At The Aurora, a 178 unit supportive housing residence for seniors, people with AIDS and low-income working individuals, the beautifully decorated community room was filled with over 100 residents; a snapshot of the diversity that thrives in The Aurora. They came together as friends, colleagues and neighbors to celebrate the holidays as well as their community. During the party, a middle aged man living with AIDS shared that when he first moved in, he had been sick and living on disability benefits. Fourteen years later, he’s working in theater, and enjoying his life. He smiled and said “I never thought I would be here to celebrate”. Later, everyone gathered to celebrate a resident’s 98th birthday. An accomplished author and poet, as well as a screenwriter, he and his wife moved into the building when it opened in 1996. She exhibited her paintings there and he gave many poetry readings. As they became frailer, The Fund was able to bring in homecare services and when she died, the building staff and caring neighbors was there to help him through this difficult time.
The Schermerhorn residence in Brooklyn is a partnership with Common Ground Community. It has the duel mission to provide housing to the homeless as well as affordable housing for those in the arts. Their holiday party was attended by 60 residents with a holiday tree decorated with ornaments created by the tenants in an art workshop held onsite the previous week. A resident singer performed and the whole event was documented by a resident filmmaker. The enthusiasm surrounding this event made it clear how happy the residents are to be in this new community, living in a beautiful, affordable building with great activities and in a convenient location.
Isak Dineson stated in Babette’s Feast, “Through all the world there goes one long cry from the heart of the artist: Give me leave to do my utmost.” At its core, this is what The Actors Fund offers; support during times of need, crisis and transition, allowing the entertainment and performing arts professional to focus on their work with a secure, stable, and comfortable roof over their heads. The Fund looks forward to creating many more residences that continue to change lives and expand communities.
Chief Operating Officer,
The Actors Fund