Queen Latifah is giving back to her New Jersey hometown in dire need of affordable housing.
On Tuesday (April 26), Latifah sported a hard hat and shoveled dirt at the groundbreaking ceremony for a townhouse development in Newark, New Jersey. Under the RISE Living project, a 76-unit structure will be built for families to rent at an affordable cost, North Jersey reports.
The development is spearheaded by BlueSugar Corporation where Latifah serves as co-president and the project was inspired by her late mother Rita Owens. RISE Living stands for "Rita is Still Everywhere."
Latifah said at the groundbreaking ceremony, “I’m a little bit emotional that we got walls up, we got windows.”
Reports say the hip-hop icon began looking into real estate development for her hometown back in 2006. In 2016, Latifah birthed her project RISE Living, and it finally came to fruition on Tuesday.
“It took a while, 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,” Latifah said in a statement.
A 2021 study from Rutgers Center revealed Newark's desperate need for affordable housing — the city needs more than 16,000 units to keep up with the community's demand.
“I grew up around here, playing in West Side Park, a block away,” Latifah said on Tuesday. “My grandfather’s hardware store was blocks from here. I drove past this block.
The actress continued, "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?'"
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver among others accompanied Latifah at the ceremony.
According to North Jersey, pre-leasing is scheduled to start in July as the space is expected to open in 2023. The multi-purpose project will include 20 three-family townhomes with rent at $1,800 per month.