Saying much of the federally defined affordable housing in Newark is not actually affordable to many Newark residents, Mayor Ras Baraka on Thursday announced the first 10 housing projects to be built under Affordable Newark, the $20 million housing initiative targeted to bring homes to Newark families earning less $32,000.
The buildings, one-third of which will be developed by minority and women developers, are now in the process of renovation to quality affordable housing. (See the complete list at the bottom of the story.)
Affordable Newark is one of Baraka’s many initiatives designed to create and preserve affordable housing in the city, a long-stated goal of his administration.
Baraka, speaking at 2-18 Stratford Place, one of the initial 10 selected sites, said the potential impact of the initiative is huge.
“Last year, we set forth very ambitious five-year housing goals prioritizing housing in all five wards that the average Newark resident can afford,” he said. “Fifty-nine percent of all Newark renters are cost-burdened, spending more than a third of their incomes for housing.
“Much of the housing defined as affordable under federal housing programs is not affordable by the people of Newark. The Affordable Newark program is one way for us to help fill this gap.”
Included among the developments:
- Renovation of an existing vacant apartment complex containing two midrise buildings on Stratford Place in the South Ward;
- Permanent housing on 3rd Avenue in the East Ward for homeless veterans;
- Two midrise apartment buildings on vacant lots on South 15th and 16th streets in the West Ward;
- A package of three midrise buildings in the North and West wards;
- Construction of affordable housing for seniors on Thomas Street in the East Ward; and
- An upcoming 10-story mixed-income residential development on the corner of Halsey Street and Central Avenue in the Central Ward, in the heart of downtown.
To further ensure equity across these projects, preference was given to minority- and women-owned developers or co-developers, and small-scale developments of 30 or fewer units.
Affordable Newark is being financed by the American Rescue Plan Act federal and local housing trust fund dollars. Developers were able to apply for these funds based on the following criteria:
- City funding is only provided to produce units at 30% or less of the Area Median Income;
- Units above 30% AMI must be funded with other sources;
- City funds can finance up to 50% of the per unit cost;
- The project can be mixed-income;
- Preference for projects that produce units with at least two bedrooms;
- Affordability period must be a minimum of 20 years.
The Stratford Place buildings were once infamous for their uninhabitable conditions, as well as health and fire code violations. Now, more than one-third of the 75 apartments under rehabilitation are being financed under Affordable Newark.
Announced in 2021, Newark’s five-year housing goals outline critical, measurable targets for affordable housing that will ensure all Newarkers have access to safe, affordable housing. The city has created a tracker with information on the number of homes that have been funded and built in the city, where they are located, how affordable they are and more. The tracker will be updated periodically and brings together data from more than eight city agencies and partner organizations. It was developed in collaboration with Bloomberg Associates, the pro bono consulting arm of Bloomberg Philanthropies.
The tracker reveals that, since the announcement of Affordable Newark, almost 40% of the affordable homes funded in the city were targeted to households at or below 30% of the Area Median Income (approximately $32,000 or less annually for a family of four). This is more than five times the number of units constructed for families earning this amount in each of the four previous years. The total number of Affordable Newark units funded at 30% AMI is 196.
To access the tracker, click here.
The need for affordable housing is more acute than ever, Newark officials said. It is particularly important at a time when corporate investors have been buying owner-occupied Newark homes and converting them to market-rate rentals.
Baraka was joined at the event by David Troutt, author of “Who Owns Newark,” the recently released Rutgers University report documenting the dangerous extent of corporate purchase of Newark homes and “Homes Beyond Reach,” the research report that documented the need for programs such as Affordable Newark targeted to families earning $32,000 or less.
“Mayor Baraka has made equitable growth and truly affordable housing a major priority of the city of Newark,” Troutt said. “He created the Equitable Growth Commission and worked with us to create Affordable Newark, a stronger Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance, better rent control enforcement and a rubric to ensure that all city departments are focused on making Newark a more equitable city.”
- Residence of St. Martin of Tours: Through its nonprofit developer Domus Corp., the Catholic Archdiocese of Newark will be bringing this brand-new affordable senior living facility to the North Ward. The development will provide 11 units at 30% AMI and 14 units at 50% AMI for older Newarkers.
- 450 Ferry (Ballantine Site G): Part of the redevelopment of the former Ballantine Beer brewery in the East Ward, this all-affordable component of the project will contain 21 units at 30% AMI and 22 units at 80% AMI, ensuring that the transformative redevelopment on the edge of the Ironbound will be inclusive of low- and moderate-income Newarkers.
- Halsey Central: Halsey Central is an upcoming 10-story mixed-income residential development being developed by L&M Partners and Prudential Financial on the corner of Halsey Street and Central Avenue in the heart of downtown. It will contain five units at 30% AMI, and 46 units at 80% AMI, alongside 51 market-rate units. Alongside the all-affordable Kawaida Towers being developed across the street, the intersection of Halsey & Central will soon be a demonstration of Baraka’s commitment to Equitable Growth in action and a nationally prominent example of Equitable Transit-Oriented Development.
- 184-194 Thomas: This all-affordable apartment community in the South Ironbound is currently under construction, and, thanks to Affordable Newark, will provide 20 units of housing at 30% AMI alongside 10 units at 50% AMI and 22 units at 80% AMI. This project will provide much-needed affordable housing to the East Ward, the ward in the city with the highest rents and the lowest vacancy rates.
- Clinton Hill Family Homes: Clinton Hill Community Action, a neighborhood community development corporation founded in 2019 dedicated to serving the South Ward, has acquired three vacant lots and one abandoned home in the Upper Clinton Hill neighborhood. Thanks to Affordable Newark funding, it will be returning all four properties into productive use as three-family homes, providing an affordable homeownership opportunity for households making 80% AMI, and seven units of 30% AMI rental housing.
- Oak Towers: The long-troubled and more recently blighted and abandoned Aspen Stratford apartments on Stratford Place in Lower Clinton Hill are being rehabilitated and transformed into the modern, all affordable Oak Towers. Thanks to Affordable Newark, the development will contain 28 units at 30% AMI alongside 47 units at 80% AMI.
- Bergen Family Living: As part of its promise to give back to its Weequahic community around Beth Israel Hospital in the South Ward, RWJ Barnabas is facilitating the renovation and expansion of a row of commercial storefronts along Bergen Street in order to provide affordable housing above retail properties on the busy commercial strip. The development will contain 15 units at 30% AMI, 19 units at 50% AMI and 32 units at 80% AMI.
Projects funded under Affordable Newark II
- Fairmount Commons Phases I & II: The Fairmount Commons redevelopment, a partnership between the city of Newark, the Urban League of Essex County, and private developers RPM and MCI, will be transforming vacant parcels on a disinvested city block across the street from West Side High School into quality affordable housing, new homeownership opportunities and community facilities. The West Ward project was designed with special care by the city’s Office of Planning & Zoning to integrate seamlessly with the surrounding residential community. Fully realized, the plan will contain 29 units of 30% AMI housing alongside 72 units of 30% AMI housing and 16 community homeownership opportunities.
- Arrow Senior Living: Arrow Senior Living is bringing four all-affordable senior living facilities to sites in the West and North wards, providing much-needed affordable homes for elders. Together, the projects will contain 52 30% AMI units alongside 126 50% AMI units and 74 80% AMI units.
- West Side Villas: Located in the West Ward Model Neighborhood, this mixed-income project will bring much-needed housing at a variety of income levels to a series of vacant lots on 15th and 16th streets near West Side Park. The apartment building will contain eight units of 30% AMI housing and 20 units of 80% AMI housing to accompany 41 units of market-rate housing.