Multitalented rapper and actress Queen Latifiah recently broke ground on an affordable housing project in her hometown of Newark, New Jersey. Initially revealed to the public in 2016, the residential effort was led by BlueSugar Corp, where the “Set It Off” star serves as co-president.
“I’m a little bit emotional that we got walls up, we got windows,” Northjersey.com reported the 52-year-old said at the April 26 groundbreaking ceremony as she stood before partially constructed three-story townhouses with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and other dignitaries in attendance.
Latifah, whose real name is Dana Elaine Owens, told the outlet that she started looking to invest in the properties in 2006. After the public revelation, construction was supposed to begin two years ago, but setbacks resulted in its delay.
“It took awhile, but we stayed with it, and it changed, and it morphed, and we stayed with what we needed to do, and the timing is right right now for this place to rise,” she said, referring to the project’s name, RISE Living. The name is also an acronym for “Rita is Still Everywhere,” a tribute to her mother, Rita, a former Newark schoolteacher.
“I’m proud to be from here,” she said, “I grew up around here playing in West Side Park, a block away. My grandfather’s hardware store was blocks from here. I drove past this block. I saw what was needed on this block, houses that weren’t lived in. Some were really dilapidated, and so I thought, ‘Why not here?’”
The outlet also noted that an affordable rental unit for a Newark household typically costs $763 a month, which is reported to be $330 less than the city’s median market rent and $600 less than what the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development considers the city’s fair market rent. Sixty percent of renters in the city are said to be spending more than a third of their incomes on housing.
The plan includes a 76-unit, mixed-use project that consists of 20 three-family townhomes at market-rate prices. Rents for those residences will start at $1,800 a month, while the remaining 16 units designated as affordable housing will lease at lower rates.
The project is slated to be completed by next year.