Jersey City Mixed-Income Community is the Next Step toward Creating the City of 2050

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By Erika Schnitzer, Associate EditorJersey City, N.J.–Franklin Development Group and the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency (JCRA) recently broke ground on Margaret S. Herbermann Manor, a 45-unit mixed-income community located in the Heights neighborhood of Jersey City, N.J. The development is just one component of a larger, ongoing redevelopment effort.The expected $16 million development, which is […]

By Erika Schnitzer, Associate EditorJersey City, N.J.–Franklin Development Group and the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency (JCRA) recently broke ground on Margaret S. Herbermann Manor, a 45-unit mixed-income community located in the Heights neighborhood of Jersey City, N.J. The development is just one component of a larger, ongoing redevelopment effort.The expected $16 million development, which is slated for completion in the spring of 2010, will be financed by a combination of New Jersey Housing & Mortgage Finance Agency’s “CHOICE” program and M & T Bank.  “CHOICE,” conceived to encourage the development of for-sale housing in Smart Growth areas throughout N.J., focuses on home ownership. “So that we can sell the condos, there are a number of subsidies from Jersey City’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME fund and from the New Jersey Housing & Mortgage Finance Agency,” says Paul DeBellis, Sr., president of Franklin Development Group. “In addition, what makes this unique is that one of the waterfront properties had the responsibility to supply 25 affordable housing units so it put in an additional $2.5 million in subsidies.”Herbermann Manor is the second new workforce housing project to break ground in Jersey City, with the first being the eight-unit Harriet Tubman Townhomes. Next month, the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency plans to break ground on Mary Norton Manor, which will add an additional 24 units.  In total, JCRA has approximately 300 units in the pipeline.“The hallmark of this housing is an inclusionary policy of all income groups,” says Robert Antonicello, executive director of Jersey City Redevelopment Agency. He adds that all projects are designed for at least LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification “so they are sustainable and affordable to own and operate. A lot of times these get built as code housing and it becomes, for a lot of low- and moderate-income families, very expensive to live [in] because it’s expensive to maintain.”A five-story, all-brick elevator building, Herbermann Manor’s green features will include tankless hot water heaters, high efficiency air conditioning and heating, low-E windows and green landscaping.Despite the fact that the project team was able to get the development financed, Antonicello notes, “the problem with workforce housing is that federal and local funding is aimed at people making no more than 80 percent of AMI. But you need to subsidize those between 80 and 120 percent AMI.” He adds, “We continually try to develop new sources of funding to bridge that gap,” explaining that the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency’s goal is build a model for others.Margaret S. Herbermann Manor, which will be four stories of condominiums over one level of parking, will be comprised of five low-income units, five very low-income units, five moderate-income units and 30 workforce housing units. All residences, which are two-bedroom units, will average approximately 1,100 sq. ft., and about half of the homes will be on one level and the balance will be duplex layouts.  According to DeBellis, Sr., the units at Herbermann Manor that are set aside for those with very low incomes will sell at the 45 percent AMI level, or $60,000, the low-income units will sell at 55 percent AMI, or 79,000, the moderate-income units will sell for 72 percent AMI, or $118,000 and the workforce units will sell for $279,000. “There are two restrictions on all units,” Debellis tells MHN. “So that they are not used for investment purposes, they have to be owner-occupied, and if the owner sells within the first five years, they have to split the profit with the State of New Jersey. The shared equity keeps [the owner] in there so they are not looking to pick up a profit.”As Antonicello points out, affordable housing is generally concentrated in particular neighborhoods. In the case of the JCRA’s plan, the developments are spread across the city.  “Now we get people who understand the housing,” Antonicello tells MHN. “We get people who approach us. In the past, people didn’t want affordable housing in their neighborhood. It’s been a paradigm shift. The flip side is they are now competing with other neighborhoods for this kind of housing. There’s a large need out there for us and we are just trying to be as creative as possible.”Antonicello also tells MHN that JCRA is “becoming evangelical” about workforce housing.” He says, “Keep in mind that Jersey City is right across the river from New York City, where the population is 8.1 million. If we don’t produce this housing, what will happen is that market-rate housing [in Jersey City] will become much more expensive. There will be a lot of pressure on the middle-class, so we are trying to address that now. We are being proactive. We are always concerned about the city in 2050. That city is the city we’re creating.”

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