New program offers recovering addicts affordable housing

Bruce Nichol, left, whose family owns Northridge Apartments, tenant Timberly Fox and apartment manager Gover Cochran stand near the sign on Martha Court. Fox is now able to pay her own way.
Bruce Nichol, left, whose family owns Northridge Apartments, tenant Timberly Fox and apartment manager Gover Cochran stand near the sign on Martha Court. Fox is now able to pay her own way.

After completing 18 months of substance abuse treatment, Timberly Fox was hoping the legal problems she'd worked to overcome wouldn't keep her from finding a place to live.

A unique arrangement between landlord Bruce Nicol and the Chrysalis House, a non-profit recovery program for women, allowed her to have more than she could have hoped for.

"I was looking for an apartment, but I found a home," she said.

Nicol and his extended family have long been supporters of the Chrysalis House and also have an interest in providing quality, low-income housing. The two passions came together in a program that allows Chrysalis House graduates like Fox a chance to sublet an apartment through the recovery program until they can support themselves.

Chrysalis House executive director Lisa Minton said even after women complete the extensive rehabilitation program they often have previous drug-related convictions, poor or non-existent rental histories and spotty job records that can make finding an affordable apartment difficult.

But through a partnership with Nicol, who runs Northridge Apartments on Martha Court off Eastland Parkway, 17 graduates have found affordable, quality housing.

The program started with a single graduate who rented a $550 a month, one-bedroom apartment at a discounted rate of $300 a month. When she became financially able to pay full market value, another Chrysalis House graduate was brought on board at the subsidized rate. Now 10 recent graduates rent through the Chrysalis House and seven others, like Fox, live in Northridge and pay their own way.

Fox, who was recently promoted to manager at the restaurant where she works, said having a home for the holidays was the best gift she could have hoped for.

Living near other graduates after leaving the intense, residential program "keeps us connected," said Fox. "We are able to hold each other accountable."

Plus, she said, knowing that Nicol and the Chrysalis House staff had faith in her ability to do well on her own helped build her confidence to do other things, such as take a test to achieve her recent promotion.

Nicol is glad to be able to help the women who are, after completing treatment, helping themselves, he said. And, this business model is something other Lexington landlords should consider, he said.

The women who live in the subsidized housing are drug tested by Chrysalis House staffers who help them cope with other challenges, such as job changes or the stresses of being out on their own. And, since Chrysalis House is the official lease holder, they pay the rent on the subsidized units through a federal housing grant.

There has also been an unexpected bonus, Nicol explained. The graduates, "have changed the dynamics of community," at the apartment complex, he said.

Not only do the graduates look out for one another, other tenants have responded positively to the changes they've brought.

Nicol believes there's a need for more affordable housing in Lexington and wants to extend his low-income housing offerings. He's in the process of rezoning a small plot adjacent to the current Northridge property. He has commissioned Lexington architect Van Meter Pettit to create 15, 450 square-foot studio apartments to match his motto of "Safe, comfortable and affordable."

Since much of the city's low-income housing stock is found in older buildings, Nicol said utility costs are often both high and unpredictable. The commissioned units will be built with insulated concrete forms to make them more energy efficient and will use energy-saving technology like energy recovering ventilators and tankless hot water heaters.

If he can get city approval, Nicols is hoping to have the apartments built by next Christmas. His goal is to offer them for $450 a month.