Bethany Andrade won’t have far to go when it comes to moving into the one-bedroom apartment for which she has just signed a contract with First Choice Bank.
Her new home, purchased through Princeton’s Affordable Housing Program, is on the third floor of the same building as the condo in which she was raised by her single mother Karen Andrade-Mims. “When I found out, I couldn’t believe it. There will be no moving truck, just me schlepping boxes up the stairs,” laughed Bethany in a recent interview at home with her mother. “At last, I’ll have my own space that I’ve worked so hard for.”
For Bethany, who attended Littlebrook, John Witherspoon Middle School (JWMS), and graduated from Princeton High School in 2003, the purchase is the culmination of a period of hard work and study. She went on to Indiana University of Pennsylvania for a bachelor’s degree in sociology, graduating in 2007, and then started work for the New Jersey Department of Children and Families Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) in Trenton.
Although she grew up in an affordable housing unit, a municipal housing program was not her first thought when she began looking for a place of her own after three years in her job. With what she thought of as a good salary, she expected to buy on the open market. “My salary wasn’t enough for even a rental in Princeton, which is where I wanted to be; not being able to afford market prices was very discouraging so I decided to make a transition in my career. I went back to school, to Monmouth University — West Long Branch, to earn a master’s in social work in 2012. My concentration was international and community development, something a little different,” she said.
During her time as a graduate student, Ms. Andrade had internships at the Children’s Home Society of New Jersey and at the United Nations in New York, where she participated in non-governmental organization (NGO) meetings and contributed to initiatives that enhance the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
She also took on a part-time job. Although she had been advised to look for a desk job that wouldn’t be too demanding and allow her to devote all her energies to her studies, Ms. Andrade went to work part-time for Corner House facilitating the World of Work for Youth (WOWY) program for girls at PHS that meets once a week. “It’s for students who are struggling, particularly young women of African American or Hispanic descent who are often the first of their families to go on to higher education; working with these young ladies is very dear to my heart and I got pretty involved and ultimately I became full-time at Corner House when I graduated in 2012.”
As outreach coordinator for Corner House, Ms. Andrade oversees the development and implementation of adolescent outreach programs World of Work for Youth (WOWY), Super Teens Acting Responsibly (STAR) and Advocacy for Youth Program (AYP). She also created the Illuminations Mentor Program with a mandate to enhance the lives of students identified as being at risk and improve the climate of the school.
Under her leadership the outreach programs have exceeded expectations. For three consecutive years, all of the participating students have graduated and all have gone on to college.
The closing date on Ms. Andrade’s condominium is September 30. “I am very excited. I really wanted to stay in the town where I grew up, where I have a job and where I have family. As someone who has been educated in this community and who works for the municipal government, I am grateful to the Affordable Housing Program for offering me, as a first-time buyer, comprehensive assistance and advice as well as help with finding an attorney — all that goes into a first-time purchase,” said Bethany. “The Affordable Housing Program is a jewel in the crown of the municipality. Princeton is an amazing place to live; it has great schools, it’s safe, close to New York and Philadelphia, who wouldn’t want to live here? I am very proud to be able to own a home here.”
On hearing her daughter speak so eloquently about her life and her goals, Karen Andrade-Mims expressed gratitude to the environment in which Bethany was raised. “I am so proud of Bethany; she has come a long way in no short measure as a result of living in this community.”
Ms. Andrade-Mims purchased her condo at Griggs Farm in 1990 after entering her name in a lottery for first time buyers of new homes at Griggs Farm. In spite of naysayers who told her it was a waste of time, Karen’s number was called. “I was in the throes of divorce but I was working at the Princeton YWCA, Bethany was five, about to enter grade school and we had established family roots here in Princeton, so I was very excited,” she recalled. “Because I was one of the first to buy one of the new units, I got my pick.” She chose a two-bedroom unit in the first floor and will soon have her mortgage paid off.
Having grown up on the outskirts of Philadephia in Yeadon, Pa. Ms. Andrade-Mims had come to the Princeton area in 1987 as a newlywed to live with her aunt and uncle Clementine Leo Brisco. Her aunt, a seamstress with many clients in Princeton, was ailing and the young couple moved in to help take care of her. Her aunt ultimately went into Princeton Nursing Home and Karen and her husband George Jenkins divorced.
Like her daughter, Ms. Andrade-Mims is deeply involved with the Princeton community. She has served on the boards of numerous organizations, including the YWCA, HiTops, and Princeton Human Services for about 10 years. She’s also been a member of the Junior League of Princeton and is now executive director of the nonprofit UIH (United Industrial Home) Family Partners in Trenton, which “dates to 1859 and is the oldest child welfare agency in New Jersey,” she said. “My involvement began as a board member and when the executive director left in 2008, I was asked to take over as an interim. I’m still here,” she laughed. “It’s long hours, but I enjoy the work.”
Griggs Farm Living
Mother and daughter speak highly of the Griggs Farm environment with its movie nights in the club house, multi-family yard sales, community events, and cook-outs.
In recent years, Ms. Andrade-Mims has noticed an influx of immigrant families to Griggs Farm and points out the significance to the town. “If Princeton wants to maintain a diverse environment, it’s important to maintain the Affordable Housing Program,” she said, adding that “diversity” has multiple aspects, many of which are exemplified by Griggs Farm residents. “Diversity isn’t just socioeconomic, it includes racial diversity as well as the disabled and the elderly living on fixed incomes.”
“It’s a spectrum that includes young people looking for their starter home, people new to the country, people on disability and veterans,” added Bethany.
“I wouldn’t be able to afford property in Princeton if it weren’t for this program,” said Bethany. “A lot of young people I went to PHS with have left the town because they can’t afford to live here. The same isn’t true of Lawrenceville, for example where civil servants, teachers, social workers who work there are able to live there too. Having homes for such people in the town where they are working enriches our community.”
Princeton’s Affordable Housing
Although Princeton’s Mayor Liz Lempert and members of Princeton Council have suggested that they would like to see more affordable housing in Princeton, the state Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) has stated that the municipality has a “zero” obligation” to provide more. Princeton currently has about 463 affordable units with a waiting list of some 1,900.
Basing its recommendations on census data rather than on-site surveys, COAH also recommends that developers planning large projects be required to set aside 10 percent for affordable housing. Princeton has had a 20 percent set aside for several decades.
The municipality’s Affordable Housing Program offers a broad range of opportunities for rentals and purchases to residents from diverse social and economic backgrounds.
For more information on rentals, call Princeton Community Housing at (609) 924-3822; for purchases, contact Princeton Affordable Housing at (609) 688-2029. An Affordable Housing Fact Sheet is available online (www.princetoncommunityhousing.org).