Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 33
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
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Report: Housing Goals Could Be Met Through Consolidated Services

Matthew Hersh

Major housing issues facing the Princeton community, including overcrowded housing and housing affordability, could be better addressed by combining services and by implementing new housing strategies, according to a recently released report examining existing housing providers and related municipal agencies.

Additionally, the report indicates that while Princeton has been "successful" in creating organizations addressing community need for low- and moderate-income housing, with 874 existing units, and 37 units currently under development between the Borough and Township, the two towns would benefit by streamlining, or consolidating, municipal services to oversee housing services.

The $30,000 report, "Princeton Housing Opportunities: An Organizational Analysis," financed by Princeton Borough, Township, and the Princeton Area Community Foundation, also encourages the Princetons to contract with Princeton Community Housing, the non-profit affordable housing provider in creating a centralized office for rental- and owner-based programs for houses that fall under affordable classification as outlined by the most recent mandates set by the state's Council on Affordable Housing. The report further identified PCH, which manages Princeton Community Village, Griggs Farm, Harriet Bryan House, and Elm Court, as the "primary vehicle" for rental housing development.

The release of the report, authored by Vito A. Gallo, a professional planner, who is also the executive director of the Summit Housing Authority, comes just weeks after Borough Hall, in anticipation of the Gallo report's release, decided to table a proposal that encouraged the revival of the Princeton Borough Non-Profit Housing and Redevelopment Corp. That proposal encouraged new thinking in housing strategies, not only for subsidized and low-income housing, but also for moderate-income housing.

Currently, the Housing Authority of the Borough of Princeton (HABOP), PCH, and the respective affordable housing boards of Princeton Borough and Princeton Township, administer the community's affordable housing developments. HABOP manages Franklin and Maple Terrace, Clay Street's Hageman Homes, Spruce Circle, Redding Circle, and Karin Court.

While Mr. Gallo's report describes the various organizations overseeing Princeton's affordable housing complexes as "well-run and professionally-staffed," he goes on to say that the development of these organizations over a 70-year span have resulted in an "overly decentralized and unnecessarily confusing" system for potential applicants. As such, the report identified PCH as a candidate for a wider administrative role in local affordable housing, while HABOP should be assigned tasks outside of housing development that could include a move toward social service delivery, self-sufficiency programs, and resident empowerment programs. The report also suggested that HABOP could be realigned as a joint Borough-Township agency, a "Princeton Regional Housing Authority," that would work to develop low- and moderate-income housing in tandem with PCH.

That proposal reflects the aims, though in a more regional scope, of the proposal put forth for Borough consideration last month, in which David Schrayer, chair of the Borough's Affordable Housing Board, sought to revive the Princeton Borough Non-Profit Housing and Redevelopment Corp., looking to achieve housing advocacy and new forms of development. The original non-profit, created in the mid-1980s to effectively carry out the development of Shirley Court off Witherspoon Street, has largely been dormant for several years.

Mr. Schrayer's proposal followed his May presentation to Borough Council that focused on a lack of middle-income housing in Princeton, indicating that the $716,000 median price of the 500 Borough houses sold in the last five years, combined with a 20 percent down payment, at 6.25 percent, 30-year-mortgage, and an average $13,000 per year in property taxes, was only attainable to the top 20 percent in income in the Borough. That demographic, Mr. Schrayer reported, comprises households with $189,000 combined income and higher.

Borough Council is expected to discuss the Gallo report at an upcoming public session.

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