Queen Latifah has officially broken ground on an affordable housing project in her hometown of Newark, New Jersey.

The entertainer returned to her birthplace to kick off the groundbreaking ceremony to transform the community responsible for her upbringing. Revealed publicly in 2016, the project is spearheaded by BlueSugar Corp. where Latifah serves as a co-president. Builders for the project include Life Assets Development and GonSosa Development.

“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 now for this place to rise,” said Latifah.

An acronym for “Rita is Still Everywhere,” RISE Living is named in honor of Latifah’s late mother, Rita, who served as a schoolteacher in Newark. The plan includes a 76-unit, mixed-use project that consists of 20 three-family townhomes at market rate prices. Rent will start at $1,800 a month.

“I’m proud to be from here,” the “Set It Off” actress continued. “I grew up around here playing in West Side Park, a block away. 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?'”

Currently, the need for affordable housing in Newark is urgent. Per a 2021 study conducted by the Rutgers Center on Law, Inequality, and Metropolitan Equity, an additional 16,000 low-rent units are imperative to meeting the city’s demand.

About 60% of renters in Newark are spending more than a third of their incomes on housing.

Sporting a hard hat at the scene, Latifah beamed as she stood in front of the foundation that will soon become housing for residents in the community.

“I’m a little bit emotional that we got walls up, we got windows,” she expressed.