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Feature News | Tuesday, May 07, 2024

Getting a GRRP on housing

Archdiocese gets $20.3 million federal funding

Officials pose April 30, 2024, with a $ 6.72 million check from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for improving group homes managed by the Archdiocese of Miami. From left are Msgr. Dariusz Zielonka, archdiocesan chancellor for canonical affairs; Juana D. Mejia, vice president of housing development and operations, Catholic Housing Management; Jennifer Riley Collins, HUD regional administrator; Alexis Snyder, deputy chief of staff for Congresswoman Frederica Wilson; Mayor Rodney Harris of Miami Gardens; Tiffany Cobb, HUD deputy regional administrator; Margarita Polo, a resident of St. Monica Gardens; Mark Dominick, HUD regional director for multifamily housing; and Isabel Soto-Noriega, property manager of St. Monica Gardens.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

Officials pose April 30, 2024, with a $ 6.72 million check from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for improving group homes managed by the Archdiocese of Miami. From left are Msgr. Dariusz Zielonka, archdiocesan chancellor for canonical affairs; Juana D. Mejia, vice president of housing development and operations, Catholic Housing Management; Jennifer Riley Collins, HUD regional administrator; Alexis Snyder, deputy chief of staff for Congresswoman Frederica Wilson; Mayor Rodney Harris of Miami Gardens; Tiffany Cobb, HUD deputy regional administrator; Margarita Polo, a resident of St. Monica Gardens; Mark Dominick, HUD regional director for multifamily housing; and Isabel Soto-Noriega, property manager of St. Monica Gardens.

MIAMI GARDENS | Elderly and disabled residents served by the archdiocese will get more secure and energy-efficient group homes, thanks to more than $20.3 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Part of the federal Green and Resilient Retrofit Program (GRRP), the funds will go toward stronger doors and windows, heat-resistant roofs and more efficient heating and cooling systems, officials of HUD and the archdiocese said.

"You can see the love (staffers) have for the residents," Mark Dominick, multifamily regional director for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said April 30, 2024, during a $ 6.72 million check presentation for the St. Monica Gardens home.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

"You can see the love (staffers) have for the residents," Mark Dominick, multifamily regional director for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said April 30, 2024, during a $ 6.72 million check presentation for the St. Monica Gardens home.

The announcement was made April 30, 2024, during a check presentation at St. Monica Gardens, managed by Catholic Health Services, a ministry of the archdiocese.

“We want homes to be greener and stronger,” said Jennifer Riley Collins, HUD regional administrator. “GRRP is a powerful tool for building stronger, healthier, more resilient cities.”

GRRP is part of the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, launched by the Biden administration to fund improvements to properties that receive HUD assistance.

Of the $20.32 million for archdiocesan homes, $6.72 million will go to St. Monica Gardens. The rest includes $8.64 million for St. Joseph Towers in Lauderdale Lakes and $4.96 million for St. Joseph Mission in Pompano Beach.

The aid will benefit 2,600 residents in 2,400 units managed by the archdiocese. Most of the residents are over 62 years old. Those younger than 62 are disabled, said Juana D. Mejia, vice president of housing development for Catholic Health Services.

The funding is part of $173 million in grants and loans announced March 28 for group homes in 15 states, from Washington to Texas to Missouri to New York. The Archdiocese of Miami was the only recipient institution in Florida.

Father Samuel Muodiaju, pastor of St. Monica Church, leads prayer as Juana D. Mejia of Catholic Housing Management bows her head. They prayed April 30, 2024, during a $ 6.72 million check presentation for the St. Monica Gardens home from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

Father Samuel Muodiaju, pastor of St. Monica Church, leads prayer as Juana D. Mejia of Catholic Housing Management bows her head. They prayed April 30, 2024, during a $ 6.72 million check presentation for the St. Monica Gardens home from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Asked about the archdiocese’s success rate, Mejia just smiled and said, “Help from the heavens.”

She specified, however, that the HUD money is a 1 percent loan, rather than a grant, payable if Catholic Health Services has a surplus cash flow. CHS has 15 years to repay it, although that term is extendable.

Collins, the HUD administrator, said GRRP has more than one goal. One goal is to distribute the funds among various areas, especially for “underserved” communities. Another goal is to reduce the amount of carbon used for housing, in an effort to reduce greenhouse gases.

A further goal is to reinforce homes against “extraordinary weather events” – floods, hurricanes and tornadoes – that have become more frequent and severe.

Workers will also consider coating roofs to reflect heat instead of absorb it, as well as ways to boost the efficiency of air conditioning.

Besides HUD and archdiocesan representatives, the gathering drew Mayor Rodney Harris of Miami Gardens; Isabel Soto-Noriega, property manager of the home; Father Samuel Muodiaju, pastor of neighboring St. Monica Church; Msgr. Dariusz Zielonka, archdiocesan chancellor for canonical affairs; and Alexis Snyder, deputy chief of staff for Congresswoman Frederica Wilson.

Snyder noted that South Florida is still struggling under a “crisis” in affordable housing.

“St. Monica Gardens, you are at the core of this initiative,” Snyder said, to applause. “This funding will not only ensure that people will have roofs over their heads, but quality homes.”

"Everything that reduces stress and promotes mental health, they'll do it," Margarita Polo, resident of St. Monica Gardens, said April 30, 2024, after a $ 6.72 million check presentation for the St. Monica Gardens home.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

"Everything that reduces stress and promotes mental health, they'll do it," Margarita Polo, resident of St. Monica Gardens, said April 30, 2024, after a $ 6.72 million check presentation for the St. Monica Gardens home.


Some St. Monica Gardens residents sat in on the HUD presentation. They voiced approval of the aid as well as the quality of St. Monica Gardens itself.

“We love it here, and we need so many things,” said Mary Luz, who has lived at St. Monica Gardens for five years. “It’s clean, peaceful, smells good.”

Blanca Coro, a seven-year resident, agreed. “Everybody helps everybody else,” she said. “You feel like family.”

Margarita Polo, a charter resident for 15 years, was more eloquent. She praised the management not only for physical maintenance, but for a caring and nurturing attitude. “You never worry about anything,” Polo said. “Everything that reduces stress and promotes mental health, they’ll do it.”

After the presentation, attendees toured the group home, including an apartment. Mark Dominick, multifamily regional director for HUD, said he was impressed not only by the building’s cleanliness but also by the care with which it was maintained.

“You can see the love (staffers) have for the residents,” he said. “Seeing this – immaculate property and happy residents – is what keeps you coming to work every day.”

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