Building Back Up Stimulus Funds at Work in New Jersey

 In early 2009 at the urging of President Barack Obama, Congress passed the  American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) with a view toward easing the  blow dealt to the economy by what some are calling the Great Recession. The  ARRA had a tall order to fill: create new jobs while saving existing ones,  cultivate economic activity in both the short- and long-term —and in the words of the official website, do it all with “unprecedented levels of accountability and transparency in government spending.”  

 The act sought to accomplish this short-but-mighty list by providing some $787  billion in funding for everything from tax cuts to federal contracts, grants,  and loans. The State of New Jersey received $61 million from the Act's HUD Tax  Credit Assistance Program (TCAP), and the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage  Financing Agency (HMFA) —an affiliate of the Department of Community Affairs (DCA)—was charged with administering the funds within the state.  

 Under federal guidelines, projects eligible to receive TCAP assistance are housing projects that received or will receive an award of Low Income Housing  Tax Credit (LIHTC) funds during the period from October 1, 2006 to September  30, 2009 (federal fiscal years 2007, 2008 or 2009), and require additional  funding to be completed and placed into service. Priority was given to projects that are expected to be completed by February  2012. Seventy-five percent of TCAP funds must be committed by February of 2011,  and 100 percent of the funds must be allocated by February 2012, or HUD will  recapture the unallocated balance. While the LIHTC funds will be awarded  immediately, the TCAP funding designations are subject to HUD approval.  

 New Projects, New Opportunities

 According to HMFA Commissioner Joseph Doria, one of former Governor Jon  Corzine's primary goals was to implement more affordable housing development  projects across the state. "These funds will help fulfill that goal,” says Doria, “and not only create jobs, but provide much needed housing for New Jersey  families."  

 One of the new housing developments making use of TCAP funding is Freedom  Village, a 60-unit affordable housing development located on Woodstown-Alloway  Road in Woodstown. The project is being developed by Project Freedom, Inc., a  Robbinsville-based non-profit organization that develops and operates “barrier-free” housing that helps enable individuals with disabilities to live independently.  

 “Project Freedom Inc. has worked hard for years to bring quality affordable  housing to Salem County for people with disabilities and we're happy to have  played a role in making that dream a reality,” said HMFA Executive Director Marge Della Vecchia. “Freedom Village is a good example of the worthwhile projects that have resulted  from New Jersey’s affordable housing efforts.”  

 Freedom Village will be comprised of five elevator-serviced, two-story buildings  housing a dozen one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments each. Units will all  be outfitted with energy efficient appliances, central heating and air  conditioning and wall-to-wall carpeting. In keeping with Project Freedom Inc.'s  ethos of “barrier-free” living for those with disabilities, the apartments will have large rooms,  extra-wide doorways and hallways, wheelchair accessible kitchens, lower  windows, roll-in showers, and laundry facilities on each floor. The project’s common-use amenities will include a community center, lounge and activity  areas, as well as multipurpose meeting rooms.  

 Freedom Village will provide 10 units to individuals who are developmentally  disabled and are referred by the New Jersey Department of Human Services’ Division of Developmental Disabilities. An additional 10 units will be for  individuals who come from the general population, who need accessible living  arrangements. These 20 unites will be affordable to individuals whose income is at or below 20  percent of the area median income (AMI). The remaining 40 units will be targeted to those whose income is at or below 60  percent AMI.  

 Other Projects

 On November 2nd, New Jersey officials gathered to break ground on Belmont Senior  Apartments, an 85-unit, mid-rise building project located at Belmont Avenue and  Cliff Street in Paterson. The HMFA has committed $2.8 million in mortgage  funding for the project and will allocate $3.14 million in TCAP funds for its  completion. The development is also receiving funding from HUD, the Paterson  Housing Authority and New Jersey's Clean Energy Program, as well as additional  ARRA stimulus funds.  

 The four-story building will include 81 one-bedroom and four two-bedroom units,  all of which will meet Energy Star standards for energy efficiency and be  handicapped adaptable, with minimal obstacles and an emergency call system that  can be accessed from bedrooms and bathrooms. Other amenities will include  on-site parking, an outdoor pavilion and sitting area, community space with a  full kitchen, and an on-site medical office for residents to be managed and  operated by the Paterson Housing Authority.  

 The development will provide affordable rental housing for seniors 55 years and  older whose incomes do not exceed 60 percent of the AMI. Ten percent of the  units will be designated for households whose income does not exceed 35 percent  of the AMI, and 20 percent will be set aside for tenants who need help in  performing basic daily living tasks. Roizman Development, Inc., a real estate  developer and property management company based in Plymouth Meeting, PA, will  develop the project. The building is slated for completion in 2011.  

 According to HMFA information, the Belmont Senior Apartments project is  anticipated to create 40 to 50 full-time jobs during the construction period,  and is expected to positively impact another 500 people on the construction and  supply side. Once construction is complete, the building will employ between 10 and 15 people  full-time.  

 That's not the only TCAP-funded development afoot in Paterson. On October 22,  Della Vecchia announced the groundbreaking of the new Alexander Hamilton  Housing Development, which will be built at the site of an old public housing  complex of the same name at 259-275 Alabama Avenue. The project is being developed by Pennrose Properties, a Philadelphia-based real  estate developer and property manager, in partnership with the Housing  Authority of the City of Paterson.  

 “For six decades, the property has been used for affordable housing—and it will continue to be used as such well into the future,” said DCA Acting Commissioner Charles A. Richman in a statement. “One completed, this project will be a desirable community that meets the needs  of families in the 21st century.”  

 Originally constructed in the 1950s, the Alexander Hamilton public housing site  consisted of 498 units in 14 buildings spread out over nearly 10 acres. With  the property now fully vacant, the building will be demolished to make way for  the first of four phases of new construction. Phase I will consist of a family building with 80 one-, two-, and three-bedroom  units. Twenty of the units will be set aside for homeless and/or disabled  grandparents raising grandchildren who are minors, and a supportive services  provider will be engaged to meet the needs of the population.  

 “This project presents the city of Paterson with an opportunity for neighborhood  revitalization and better housing for low and moderate income families,” says said Della Vecchia. “Federal, state and local officials have been working for years to make this  project a reality, and it is gratifying to finally break ground on what will be  a great community for families to raise their children and grandchildren.”  

 The completed project will house a total of 169 rental apartments and 32  for-sale units. The development will be enhanced with green spaces and a reconfigured network of  street infrastructure and other public improvements that will connect the  Alexander Hamilton site into the surrounding neighborhood.  

 Urban Renewal

 On October 28, HMFA announced the ground-breaking of the TCAP-funded Glenview  Townhouses, a 63-unit, mixed-income family apartment complex in Jersey City  located adjacent to Barbara Place and Halladay, New, Van Horn, and Grand  streets. The project is being developed by Michaels Development Company, a New  Jersey-based firm, in partnership with the Jersey City Housing Authority.  

 The project is the sixth phase of the multi-phase Lafayette Gardens HOPE VI  Revitalization Program. The 63-unit project will consist of six buildings, housing family apartments  that range from one-bedroom to four-bedroom units. Fifty-five of the apartments  will be made available to residents whose incomes are below 60 percent of AMI,  and eight of the units will be rented at market rate. Five percent of the  apartments will be handicap-accessible and an additional two percent will have  amenities to assist the visually and hearing impaired.  

 The project will meet Energy Star requirements resulting in energy savings of  approximately 15 percent. The Energy Star features include high efficiency heating and cooling systems and  energy saving lighting, appliances, and ventilation.  

 “Glenview Townhouses will help redevelop Jersey City’s downtown and return a brownfields site to productive use,” said Della Vecchia.  

 Other TCAP-funded projects are wending their way toward realization, and are  awaiting HUD approval—including projects in Jackson, Franklin, Delanco, Woolwich, Galloway, Glassboro, Lower, Medford, and Pilesgrove Townships, as well  as New Brunswick City, Elizabeth City, Glassboro, and Newark.  

 As the economy shows some encouraging signs that perhaps the worst of the  recession is behind us, the aftershocks of the meltdown are still being felt  across the country. In the case of New Jersey however, funding for new homes is  perhaps taking at least a little bit of the sting out of the situation.  

 “The global economic recession has presented numerous challenges for New Jersey  families,” said former Governor Jon Corzine in an address presented at the time of the  initial TCAP funding announcement. “The award of these tax credits will make the construction of housing projects  possible in several more communities across the state. These projects will not only boost the local economy, more importantly, they  will be providing affordable housing for hundreds of New Jersey families.”   

 Liz Robbins is a freelance writer and current law student living in New York  City.


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