By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Ocean City’s public housing authority Tuesday approved a series of preliminary steps that represent a crucial part of plans to develop a 60-unit affordable housing project that will replace the flood-prone Pecks Beach Village housing complex.
By a 7-0 vote, the Ocean City Housing Authority authorized its executive director to apply for a tax-exempt loan from the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency to help fund the estimated $22 million project.
The authority will also apply to the NJHMFA for tax credits that would be part of a multi-faceted funding package. In addition, the authority may form one or more affiliated entities to utilize the tax credits as part of the funding and ownership structure of the project.
“This is a significant step toward meeting our housing obligations and providing our fair share of affordable housing. We look forward to building an exceptional housing project that families can move into and be a vibrant part of our community,” said City Council President Bob Barr, who also serves as chairman of the housing authority’s board.
Jacqueline Jones, the authority’s executive director, said that the board’s action Tuesday gives her permission to move forward “with a lot of paperwork” to set the project in motion.
“This is just the very, very beginning phase,” Jones stressed during the authority’s monthly board meeting.
Reflecting the preliminary nature of the project, all of the possible funding sources have not yet been identified. The authority may consider a partnership with a bank for the tax credits. The authority is also still working on the architectural designs.
In an update on the project, the authority’s housing consultant told the board members that the designs will likely feature duplex-style housing units for the families living there.
“I think we can come up with a design that will be very pleasing in its look,” said Rick Ginnetti, the owner of the Brooke Group consulting firm.
Ginnetti added that the housing authority will meet with its residents in the future to discuss the designs and other facets of the project.
The authority plans to tear down the now-empty, 20-unit Pecks Beach Village senior citizen housing complex on the north side of Fourth Street to create room for the new 60-unit development. Demolition is expected to be completed by the end of February, Ginnetti said.
The senior citizens who lived in the flood-prone, 20-unit complex have since been moved into the housing authority’s newly built $7 million, 32-unit Speitel Commons housing development at Sixth Street and West Avenue.
Pecks Beach Village also includes 40 units of affordable family housing on the south side of Fourth Street. Families living there will be moved over to the new 60-unit housing site when it is completed. The existing 40 units will be demolished then.
“It’s going to be a big project,” Jones said.
Ginnetti said construction may possibly start in 2023 and take about 14 to 18 months to complete. The estimated cost is $22 million to $23 million.
Although considered one project, it will be built in two phases. There will be 40 units built first, followed by 20 more units later on, Ginnetti said.
The project will help Ocean City meet its state-mandated obligation to provide its “fair share” of affordable housing under a court settlement in 2018.
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.
Ocean City is planning to mix in another type of affordable housing for families thanks to a $2 million grant from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs through the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
The project calls for five duplexes having a total of 10 rental units of affordable housing in different locations across town.
However, the project suffered a setback Tuesday when the Ocean City Community Development Corp., the housing authority’s nonprofit affiliate, voted to reject the lone construction bid. The bid came in at $4.1 million and was made by Gary F. Gardner Inc. of Medford, N.J.
Ginnetti said Gardner’s bid was rejected because it was about $1.4 million over the budgeted amount.
The Ocean City Community Development Corp. will now have to seek new bids. Ginnetti indicated that the project may have to be changed to lower the construction cost and encourage other companies to submit competitive bids.
“We need more competition than one bidder on this project, and that’s what we’re going to do,” he said.
Two duplexes offering affordable housing 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 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.