Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 30
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
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Not-for-Profit Agency Could Soothe Rising Property Costs in Borough

Matthew Hersh

Following up on a May presentation to Borough Council on the state of housing affordability in Princeton Borough, Borough Council was slated Tuesday to examine a proposed not-for-profit agency designed to explore various mechanisms to make the Borough more financially viable to a wider demographic.

In May, the chair of the Borough's Affordable Housing Board, David Schrayer, submitted a sobering report to Borough Hall indicating that the median price of the 500 borough houses sold in the last five years — $716,000 — combined with a 20 percent down payment, a 6.25 percent, 30-year-mortgage, and an average $13,000 per year in property taxes, was within the means of households with combined incomes of $189,000 or more. That demographic, his report indicated, comprises only 20 percent of Borough residents.

In that presentation, made public to members of Borough Council, Mr. Schrayer urged the revival and retooling of an existing non-profit, the Princeton Borough Non-Profit Housing and Redevelopment Corp., whose purpose had been to achieve housing advocacy and new forms of development. The original non-profit, created in the mid-1980s, was effectively established to carry out the development of Shirley Court off Witherspoon Street. Since that time, however, the agency has been dormant.

The reactivation of the non-profit could lead to the taking on of various roles not tackled by the Affordable Housing Board, like advocacy in creating housing that is affordable to multiple levels of income, Mr. Schrayer said Monday in an interview.

Because the Borough is by all accounts land-starved, however, Mr. Schrayer expressed a hope to "partner" with land-owning in-town institutions, including academic institutions, to "come up with ways to produce housing that satisfies some of their housing needs, and as well as units for other income levels."

Mr. Schrayer also pointed to recent discussions over the future of the Borough's Public Works garage on Harrison Street and its possible move to available lands off Canal Road in Princeton Township. Freeing up that in-town space, Mr. Schrayer said, could create housing possibilities as well.

A re-tooled not-for-profit could also act as a vehicle to secure government funds for future projects, as well as serving as a recipient for charitable donations to support municipal housing policy.

Other aims of the proposed group, Mr. Schrayer said, would be to solicit property donations, as well as seeking materials, services, and cash to support the program goals. Mr. Schrayer also pointed to the possible survey of current Borough-owned land regarded as underused for housing possibilities.

In the long-term, Mr. Schrayer said the housing organization could ultimately help create a loan fund providing purchase loans with lowered interest rates, in addition to creating a "mortgage resource center" for first-time homebuyers.

The structure of the current, unused not-for-profit consists of the mayor, council president, and current and former Borough elected and administrative officials. If passed through a resolution that was slated to be up for Borough consideration Tuesday night, the new structure would alter the membership portion of the board charter, removing the governing body from the board, and replacing those members with appointees.

Borough was expected to consider the resolution re-tooling the non-for-profit, Princeton Borough Non-Profit Housing and Redevelopment Corp., Tuesday night, after Town Topics went to press.

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