Queen Latifah returns home to Newark to build desperately needed affordable housing  

Latifah, who stars in "The Equalizer," was joined at the groundbreaking ceremony by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver.

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Multi-hyphenate superstar Queen Latifah is returning home to her native Newark, New Jersey, to build affordable housing for its residents. 

“I’m a little bit emotional that we got walls up, we got windows,” the star said at a Tuesday groundbreaking ceremony, according to NorthJersey.com

Actress-rapper Queen Latifah (center) poses at the groundbreaking celebration for a new development in Newark, New Jersey, on Tuesday. (Photo: Bennett Raglin/Getty Images)

Latifah — dressed in a lime green button-down shirt with matching slacks and loafers — donned a hard hat as she scooped up dirt, tossing it into a garden box of soil. 

The townhouse development is spearheaded by BlueSugar Corporation, where she is co-president; builders Life Assets Development and GonSosa Development are additional partners. The 76-unit structure will be mixed-use project and will include 20 three-family townhomes, their rents set at the market rate of $1,800 a month. 

The report notes that Latifah — whose real name is Dana Owens — started looking to do real estate development in her Brick City hometown in 2006. The project was announced a decade later, but faced its share of challenges. 

“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,” she said, referring to the project’s name, RISE Living. Its moniker, an acronym for “Rita is Still Everywhere,” is a tribute to her late mother, Rita Owens, who passed away in 2018 of heart failure. Owens was a schoolteacher in Newark. 

“I grew up around here, playing in West Side Park, a block away,” Latifah told the crowd. “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 Equalizer star was joined at the ceremony by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, and other area leaders. 

According to a 2021 report, there is an extensive need for affordable housing in Newark. The study from the Rutgers Center on Law, Inequality and Metropolitan Equity says that the city needs an additional 16,000 units of affordable housing to meet community demand. 

Baraka told those gathered that the new development is going to be a “linchpin for so much development in the area.” 

Pre-leasing for its dwellings is set to begin in July, and the space is expected to open in 2023. The Newark Art Museum has installed a netted art installation around the chain-link fence that protects the site, which features work from local artists. 

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