By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Ocean City is planning to mix in another type of “affordable housing” for families thanks to a new $2 million state grant.
Five duplexes having a total of 10 rental units of affordable housing will be built in different locations across town in 2021.
“It will be something that will fit right in with the neighborhood,” said City Council President Bob Barr, who also serves as chairman of the Ocean City Housing Authority.
The duplexes will help the city meet its state-mandated obligation to provide its “fair share” of affordable housing under a court settlement in 2018.
As part of that effort, the housing authority is also building a nearly $7 million affordable housing complex for senior citizens at the corner of Sixth Street and West Avenue. The 32-unit complex, known as Speitel Commons, is scheduled to open next May.
In 2019, City Council approved a $6.6 million bond ordinance to build or rehabilitate affordable housing sites for senior citizens and low-income families.
The $2 million grant, awarded by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs through the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, will also help the city provide affordable housing by financing most of the construction of the five duplexes.
“Instead of the city or the taxpayers paying for the project, the grant will pay for a sizable chunk,” Barr said in an interview Wednesday.
The Ocean City Housing Authority will oversee the duplexes through its nonprofit affiliate, the Ocean City Community Development Corp.
“The housing authority will run the units. It will run them like a landlord. They will be located on our property and people would rent them,” Barr explained.
Rick Ginnetti, owner of the Brooke Group, a consultant for the housing authority, echoed Barr’s comments by noting that the new duplexes “will blend in perfectly” with the surrounding neighborhoods.
“The design of these houses will be seamless in the neighborhoods,” said Ginnetti, who helped the city secure the state grant.
Technically, the grant is called a mortgage or a “soft loan,” Ginnetti said. However, it is actually closer to a grant because the city will make no principal or interest payments on the mortgage as long as it complies with the terms of the affordable housing requirements, he noted.
Following preliminary work for site engineering and architectural services, the plan is to award the construction contract for the duplexes in the spring. Construction would start shortly thereafter and be completed within six to nine months, Ginnetti said.
Two duplexes will be built at 3300 Bay Ave. at the former American Legion post property, another two at 240-244 Haven Ave. and the fifth at 224 Simpson Ave. They will offer a mix of two or three-bedroom units, according to Ginnetti.
The rent for each duplex is still being calculated. Families will have to fall within certain income levels to be eligible to live in the duplexes, Ginnetti said.
The duplexes “will fill the gaps within the existing affordable housing ecosystem, build on current assets and investments, and add value to neighborhoods by addressing housing needs in an equitable way,” according to a New Jersey Department of Community Affairs press release.
“I am excited to see these affordable housing units become a reality. They will help strengthen the Ocean City community, creating more diverse neighborhoods, while keeping Cape May County vibrant and prosperous,” Lt. Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver, who also serves as DCA Commissioner, said in the release. “The rental units will provide 10 families with the opportunity to have an affordable place to call home.”
State Sen. Michael Testa, whose First Legislative District includes Cape May County, explained that whenever a home is sold in Ocean City, Cape May County or anywhere else in New Jersey, a portion of the realty transfer fee is deposited into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
“I’m glad to see $2 million of these funds returning to Ocean City to support the construction of 10 affordable rental units,” Testa said in the DCA’s press release.