The homebuying boom that has hit New Jersey during the pandemic certainly has been felt in Atlantic City, where many buyers are looking for second homes they can go to now — and in the future.
As the president of the Chelsea Economic Development Corp., Elizabeth Terenik is thrilled to see more homeownership around the city. But, in order for the city to truly prosper, she knows it needs more residents to become first-time buyers.
With that in mind, the Chelsea EDC is joining with three other neighborhood EDCs (Ducktown, Midtown and Inlet) at 2 p.m. Wednesday for a free Zoom webinar that aims to introduce residents to the homebuying process, making them aware of all the programs that exist to help them. (Register at acchamber.com.)
The 90-minute virtual program is being presented through the Atlantic City Development Corp., the parent organization of the Chelsea EDC, and the Greater Atlantic City Chamber. It will provide information regarding the financial incentives available to those who buy homes in Atlantic City.
The program is open to anyone, but it is targeted to real estate professionals, major employers and community leaders, so they can help spread the information to those who would benefit.
Representatives from Atlantic City, the Atlantic County Improvement Authority, the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, and private banks such as Fulton and PNC will be presenting their incentive programs.
“We decided to do this workshop because there’s programs that are in existence that people don’t realize are out there,” Terenik said. “Sometimes, the lowest hanging fruit is just pointing out what already exists.”
The next step is targeted that assistance to neighborhoods that need it the most.
“COVID has been good to the real estate market in Atlantic City — in certain neighborhoods near the water,” Terenik said. “That’s not the case in the center-of-town neighborhoods.”
Those neighborhoods don’t appeal to weekend buyers — and that’s OK, Terenik said. Those aren’t the buyers that will have the greatest impact, she said.
“Our strategy is to focus on the people that are already living in the city, the people who work here and rent here, and try and get them to become homeowners. We don’t have to convince them to live in the city. They already live in the city.”
Michael Chait, president of the Greater A.C. Chamber, said increasing homeownership will help in many ways.
“It creates wealth building opportunities for the families, now that they have equity in their home,” he said. “And it’s so impactful from a real estate tax standpoint.
“Road repairs, infrastructures, schooling, police and fire, parks and recreation — those are all things that tax revenue can go to and help better help the community. And, obviously, with any type of homeownership comes a better sense of belonging — whether it’s from a politically active perspective to volunteering with local community nonprofits, to participate with things like school boards.”
While Terenik represents the Chelsea neighborhood, a 0.75-square-mile district near AC Devco’s Stockton University/South Jersey Gas project, she said the program is intended to highlight homes throughout the city. She estimates there are approximately 200 homes — with an average price of around $200,000 — that are available.
The hope, Terenik said, is that renters will learn that a mortgage payment could be less than the monthly rent.
Terenik points out that building communities of homeowners is good for business in another way. It keeps workers in the city.
“It’s an important strategy to stem displacement,” she said. “Property values are going to continue to go up. And we don’t want to see the workers who the economy depends on get pushed out.”
That’s why Terenik, Chait and others are hoping for more help from the business community in the effort to increase homeownership.
On Monday, AtlantiCare is expected to announce plans where it will give its own employees grants if they buy a house in the city. Terenik said she is hoping other local businesses will offer similar programs.
“That would be a big step to help local residents become local homeowners,” she said. “That’s what the city needs more of.”