Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 34
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
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New Affordable Housing to Open on Leigh Avenue, Other Renovations Ongoing

Dilshanie Perera

Executive Director of Princeton Community Housing (PCH) Sandra Persichetti delivered an annual report to Borough Council at a recent meeting detailing the status of affordable housing in town.

Five new units are scheduled to open on Leigh Avenue by October 1, and consist of three two-bedroom apartments, one one-bedroom, and one three-bedroom unit. Parking is on site, and the homes are “beautifully furnished” and outfitted with utilities and appliances, according to Ms. Persichetti.

The new units are the result of a collaboration between PCH, Princeton Borough, and Princeton University.

When the Operations Research and Financial Engineering (ORFE) building was constructed on campus, it generated an affordable housing obligation under state regulations. At the time, the Borough owned five units on Leigh Avenue that had fallen into disrepair, and the University had hired PCH as a project manager, according to Ms. Persichetti, who likens the collaboration to a three-legged stool.

While the University funded the construction of the new units, the Borough owns them.

Ms. Persichetti commended the neighbors on Leigh Avenue for their patience with the construction process. “They have really embraced the building,” she explained, noting that Architect Rob Cerruti had neatly integrated his designs for the apartments with the surrounding buildings.

Pointing out the long-term PCH staff who retired in 2008, Ms. Persichetti commended Marcy Crimmins, Lucy James, and Karl Light for their decades of advocating for affordable housing in the community.

Elm Court, comprised of 88 studios and one-bedroom apartments for seniors, is fully occupied and through a one million dollar refinancing done in October, is undergoing major renovations involving re-siding the building, repairing the interior, and repaving the parking area.

“The people who come in [to Elm Court], stay for a long time,” Ms. Persichetti reported, noting that a number of bathtubs have been converted into walk-in or wheel-in showers in order to allow residents to safely age in place.

Ms. Persichetti lamented the lack of public transportation servicing senior and affordable housing in town with the exception of a van sponsored by Tyco International that can be utilized by Harriet Bryan residents once a week.

Borough Administrator Robert Bruschi noted that while the Borough is still waiting on the delivery of its own jitney vehicle from New Jersey Transit, they have done a survey in town to target ridership and transportation gaps. He acknowledged that “it is not moving at a breakneck speed, but it is moving in the right direction.”

The Traffic and Transportation Committee is scheduled to meet in September to address the issue.

Ms. Persichetti also mentioned other affordable housing developments that are fully leased like the Harriet Bryan House, 12 units of which are in the Borough, and Griggs Farm.

Princeton Community Village (PCV), which opened in 1975 in the Township, is undergoing major renovation funded by a $6 million grant.

Responding to a question by Council member Kevin Wilkes regarding how the state of the economy has affected affordable housing, Ms. Persichetti said that they have seen longer waiting lists (15 to 16 months for a unit at Elm Court to open up, and three to four years for a one-bedroom at PCV), as well as larger receivables, or monies owed.

“It is a difficult time,” Ms. Persichetti acknowledged, emphasizing that “the demand is there,” which indicates that “there’s not enough affordable housing.”

Mayor Mildred Trotman commended Ms. Persichetti and the assembled staff and trustees of PCH for their work.

Trustee Jim Floyd noted that while there is still work to be done, “we have a housing complex that we all can be proud of.”

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