John and Carroll Kowal House

John and Carroll Kowal House

John and Carroll Kowal House


John and Carroll Kowal House

Date Opened

November 7, 1988

Residential Units

72 SRO (single room occupancy) units for persons with very low incomes, persons with experience of homelessness

Development Partners

Architect: Elliott Rosenblum, Architect
General Contractor: Sparrow Construction
Major Funders: NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development and National Equity Fund

Rental Subsidy

Project-Based Section 8 Contract

Services Funding

NYC Department of Homeless Services

More Info

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Building History

Founding Board member John Kowal was a vital presence on the West Side for more than 40 years. He and his wife, Carroll, were particularly moved by the difficult experiences of single adults living in single room occupancy housing. At a time when most of government and academia believed that SRO housing should be abolished, John Kowal was a prime mover behind the creation of the Mayor’s Office on SRO Housing.
John Kowal’s experiences, along with WSFSSH’s experience of listening even more closely to what tenants had to tell, led WSFSSH to advocate for preservation of SRO housing and the recognition that when it is safe and maintained properly, SRO housing is a viable affordable housing option.
Dena Davis and Liz Glass at New York City Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) created a Request For Proposals (RFP) for a model of SRO Housing using Section 8 Modified Rehab. WSFSSH responded with a proposal to develop what became John and Carroll Kowal House. Once again, founding board member Leah Schneider identified an appropriate site, a vacant building on Manhattan Avenue and 107th Street.
Kowal House was designed as a model– SRO housing done right—a building that was clean and safe, 72 single rooms with shared kitchens, baths, and other communal spaces. Kowal House was renovated with a budget of $15,000/unit, which was woefully short of the necessary $30,000/unit cost. After considerable effort, in 1987 the project was able to be refinanced using Federal Income Tax Credits, becoming one of the first projects to use this innovative method of financing. At the time of Kowal House’s development, no governmental budget allowed for furniture, development staffing, or management fees—it was all about the building, the whole building and nothing but the building, period. Despite all these constraints, the vision of a model of supportive SRO housing was sustained. Kowal House opened in November, 1988, with WSFSSH’s first employee, Candida Acuña, as its Director. John Kowal was there to carve the turkey at the building’s first Thanksgiving dinner, a tradition he continued until his death in 2000.