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Oct 2010

Making the Ennis Francis Houses Livable Again

A kitchen in the Ennis Francis Houses before the gut-rehabilitation led by Abyssinian Development Corporation (above), and after (below).

The residents of the Ennis Francis Houses in Harlem had had enough.

After years of neglected repairs, hazardous conditions, and rampant drug-dealing on the grounds, they convinced the U.S. Department of Housing to turn the properties—built with government money, but under private management—over to the Abyssinian Development Corporation. Grants totaling $70,000 in 2006 and 2007 to Abyssinian helped it renovate apartments and common areas; the modernization of the high- and low-rise buildings is now complete. Next, Abyssinian is planning to construct 60 units of affordable housing on a parking lot on the property.

“The building compared to how it was before...I would say it’s a 110 percent better. I mean going from no heat, no hot water...I would say there’s been a big improvement,” said Gary Coppedge, a tenant for seven years. The grants also paid for a maintenance crew, a security team, and new property-management software. They also supported tenant organizing, job listings, health screenings, and free eyeglasses. Coppedge continues: “As a single father with a 17-year-old, I have to provide for her and a safe environment is a must. After the whole renovation process, I know that when my daughter walks out the door, she’s safe.”

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