PLAINFIELD, NJ - The proposed Yates House for Military Veterans in a Plainfield historic district might have 36 occupants in its 25 small apartments, when caretakers including family members are added, owner Andre Yates said Wednesday.
Yates and Anthony Flax, described as the CEO of the nonprofit that will be delivering services, told the Zoning Board that Flax would have a "one-dollar lease in perpetuity" for the former Abbott House mansion, but rent paid by the veterans would go to Yates. Services to vets will include transportation, a daily activity and help in getting employment, Flax said.
Funding would come from "HUD-VASH," described by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as "a program that combines HUD housing vouchers with VA supportive services to help veterans who are homeless and their families find and sustain permanent housing."
Attorney Steven C. Rother has already represented Yates at two Historic Preservation Commission meetings and one previous Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting. On Wednesday, he explained that veterans with PTSD experience "a wide range of conditions" that put them in a "protected group" entitled to live in any neighborhood.
Zoning Board Chairman D. Scott Belin said he is looking forward to further testimony "because this is new to me."
Board members and residents had many questions, including how Yates and Flax would handle evictions if necessary, and how the vets would get around if not allowed to have cars. Yates called himself an expert on landlord/tenant regulations. Both he and Flax pointed out the many means of transit in Plainfield, including buses, trains, paratransit and the Yates House's own planned transportation services.
As for the need to have permanent vet housing, Yates called 25 apartments "a blip" when there are thousands in need. And though the apartments at 275 square feet are far below the minimum 500 square feet for a studio apartment, Yates contrasted it to an 80-square-foot room a vet might have in a shelter.
"It's an upgrade," he said.
The hearing will be continued at 7 p.m.on Dec. 6 in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave.
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