Breaking Ground New York (US)



Lead Organisation

Breaking Ground

Housing model type

Scatter-site and congregate housing

Financial Details

Government grants and subsidies

Dwellings delivered


Clients assisted


Management of properties and tenancies

Breaking Ground

Date of program commencement


Project description and key objectives

Breaking Ground (formerly Common Ground) is a not-for-profit organisation providing immediate, long term housing to people experiencing homelessness coupled with wraparound support. Established in 1991, Breaking Ground is the largest developer and manager of permanent supportive housing in New York State. The organisation operates21 buildings comprised of 4,043 units, with an additional 750 units in various stages of development. Breaking Ground also own and manage 307 units of transitional housing, and over 200 stabilisation beds.

Following the Housing First principles, acentralobjectiveof Breaking ground is “to provide beautiful homes that allow formerly homeless and low-income individuals and families to establish lives of dignity and security in housing” (Breaking Ground 2021)

Built form

Breaking Ground housing consists of refurbished and newly-constructed buildings. The Housing First provider has partnered with a range of world-class architects such as Cook Fox, Ennead, Alexander Gorlin Architects, FXCollaborative,Jonathan Kirschenfeld, and Robert A.M. Stern Architects to ensure that each building meets the needs of clients while creating spaces that foster social inclusion and community integration.

Environmental sustainability forms a core pillar of the design process. Since 2005, all new developments meet the environmental and energy efficiency standards set by Enterprise Green Communities. Features include sustainable design elements, such as low-toxicity paints and materials to protect indoor air quality, reliance on natural light, energy-efficient heating and lighting systems, and green roofs.

In recent years, new developments follow Passive House design principles which have led to significant reduction inenergy usage and cost while aligning with the organisation’s zero-emissions commitments.

Most Breaking Ground properties include multi-purpose communal rooms, computer labs, gyms, outdoor garden space, on-site laundry, bike storage, as well as 24-hour concierge and security services.

Financial details

Breaking Ground projects are primarily financed through the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. The LIHTC incentivises private investors with federal income tax credits to make equity investments in social and affordable rental housing. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), approximate $8billion in tax credits are issued annually for the acquisition, rehabilitation or construction of rental housing for low-income households.

Additional funding is sourced through a variety and different mix of government agency support, including the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), NYC Housing Development Corporation (HDC) and NYS Housing Finance Agency (HFA).

The rental income from affordable housing tenants is used in part to offset the lower rents received from tenants with high and complex needs on marginal incomes.

Property and tenancy management

Breaking Ground manages the tenancies and properties while providing a full spectrum of wraparound supports that help people recover from the trauma of homelessness, achieve stability, and rebuild their lives in housing.

Breaking Ground property management and social service teams work in close partnership with street outreach teams should a client return to the streets for any reason. Herein, support is provided to each client regardless of where they are in the housing process, shifting resources to support them according to their circumstances. For any client that can no longer stay in their current Breaking Ground dwelling, the organisation provides a rapid rehousing service keeping with the Housing First principle of client choice and preference regarding the dwelling type and location.

The Housing First provider prioritises housing for anyone sleeping rough with a focus on persons living with HIV/AIDS and persons with substance use disorders. More than 2,000 formerly homeless individuals remain housed in a Breaking Ground housing complex. Clients typically become Breaking Ground tenants through the organisation’s Street to Home outreach programs. However, clients are also referred to Breaking Ground through the social housing waitlists.

Breaking Ground complexes also include a proportion of units as affordable housing allocated to households on low incomes. Given the high demand, applications for affordable rental homes must go through the housing lottery system by the New York City Housing Development Corporation.

Given the chronic shortage of affordable, long term housing options for people experiencing homelessness in New York City, Breaking Ground also opera tea transitional housing program. This interim step provides clients with safe accommodation while the program staff work to provide more permanent housing solutions.

There is currently one unit of permanent supportive housing available for every five people who qualify in NYC… Safe Havens offer an alternative to life on the street: private, safe, clean, and affordable short-term accommodations. On-site case management and clinical services are available to meet the needs of residents and to help them secure permanent housing (Survey response from Breaking Ground representative 2021).

Further information

For further information about Breaking Ground, please visit:

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