Newark, looking to create affordable housing that actually is affordable, invests $20M in program

Baraka said Affordable Newark initiative is targeted to city families earning $32K and below

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said the numbers don’t add up. Nearly 60% of Newark residents spend more than one-third of their income on housing — and about half of that number has to spend at least half of their income on housing.

It’s the reason Baraka announced Thursday an investment of $20 million in Affordable Newark, a new housing initiative that will target average Newark families earning a $32,000 income and below.

On June 21, Baraka said the city will issue a Request for Proposals, inviting developers to participate in the program. He said preference will be given to minority and women developers, projects with minority co-developers and small-scale developments of 30 units or less.

It’s all part of a greater goal, Baraka said.

“To move toward our Newark Forward goal of a more equitable city, we are prioritizing housing that the average resident can afford,” he said. “Unfortunately, what federal guidelines fund as ‘affordable’ is often well above affordability for the average Newark resident. The Affordable Newark initiative shows why more federal housing dollars must be targeted to the lowest income renters.”

The $20 million investment in Affordable Newark is more than four times the available funds to Newark in 2020 under the federal HOME program, which funded 13 projects, city officials said.

The HOME program funds housing that is affordable to families at 80% or less of the area median income. HUD, however, defines the Newark “area” as including all of Essex County, Morris County and other wealthier suburban counties. This large, sprawling area has an AMI of $96,000. For that reason, Affordable Newark targets families at 30% or less of the federally defined AMI, $32,000, a number close to Newark’s true median income of $35,000.

Affordable Newark is the latest of Baraka’s initiatives to produce, preserve and protect housing that Newarkers can afford. Other programs include the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance, Equitable Growth Commission, low-cost sale of city-owned property, the Newark Landbank, minority and women co-developer requirements, strengthened rent control and the Office of Tenant Legal Services.