Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 51
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010
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Need for Affordable Housing Emphasized as Management Non-Profit Looks Ahead

Dilshanie Perera

When Jan Mensz was in elementary school, he thought he might have to leave Princeton because his mother was struggling to find an affordable place where she could raise him and his sister. “We were getting ready to move, when someone told her about Princeton Community Housing (PCH) and she applied.”

Mr. Mensz credits living in Princeton Community Village (PCV) for the fact that he is now a high school, college, and law school graduate working for the American Civil Liberties Union in Indianapolis, and for shaping who he is today.

“The most obvious thing was that it let me stay in Princeton. I had great schools and great friends, and all the advantages that the University brings,” Mr. Mensz said of moving to PCV when he was seven years old. “I benefited greatly … and I know many of my more affluent friends also benefited from having a culturally and economically diverse community around them.”

While Mr. Mensz was in law school, he became interested in the legal side of fair housing issues and published a piece in the University of Michigan’s Journal of Law Reform about a case in Westchester County, New York and the importance of promoting racial and economic integration in housing.

The availability of affordable housing is a concern in many places around the country, and Princeton is no exception. Executive Director of PCH Sandra Persichetti explained that their biggest challenge “is always that our wait lists are too long.”

“The difficulty of doing new development in Princeton is troublesome,” she acknowledged, adding that PCH might be looking to do some infill properties in town in the future. “The recession has affected us … the wait lists are almost twice as long as they used to be.”

The organization itself is doing well, having completed two major renovations to Princeton Community Village and Elm Court in 2009. “We want to maintain the facilities as best we can,” Ms. Persichetti said. Additionally, they are looking to streamline the application process to make it as easy as possible for those seeking housing.

Princeton Community Housing provides, manages, and advocates for affordable housing and with 463 units, it is the largest provider of affordable housing in Princeton. The organization manages Princeton Community Village, Elm Court, Griggs Farm, and Harriet Bryan House, and recently began managing five Borough-owned units on Leigh Avenue.

Ms. Persichetti noted that they “would like to expand that opportunity and manage more affordable housing” within the Borough and Township.

In a recent letter sent to Princeton Community Village, Mr. Mensz expressed his thanks while underscoring the importance of providing and maintaining affordable housing. “Please know that you and your organization have had a big impact on people’s lives and hopefully will continue to reach many more.”

Currently, PCH is looking for two new employees: a part-time social services coordinator at Princeton Community Village, and a full-time office assistant at Elm Court. Those interested in applying should send their resumes to susan@princetoncommunityhousing.org for the former job and kerri@princetoncommunityhousing.org for the latter.

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