October 20, 2021

Princeton Community Village Celebrates Construction of New Affordable Housing

SHOVELS IN THE GROUND: Residents, staff, and board members who spoke at the virtual groundbreaking for new housing at Princeton Community Village are pictured, along with Mayor Mark Freda, far left, at the October 15 event.

By Anne Levin

Unaffordable housing costs are nothing new in Princeton. As far back as 1967, it was prohibitive for many members of the population, particularly some who worked in local businesses, private homes, and at Princeton University, to live in and around the town.

That was the year that Princeton Community Housing (PCH) was founded by a group of faith-based and community organizations to balance out the town’s housing opportunities. The organization built the 35-acre Princeton Community Village (PCV) on Bunn Drive in 1975 to provide low- and moderate-income housing in a mix of apartments and townhouses. PCH also manages rental homes — 466 in all — at other locations in town including Elm Court, Harriet Bryan House, Griggs Farm, and elsewhere. 

On October 15, a new building was added to the mix. At Princeton Community Village, ground was broken for 25 new affordable homes in a three-story building, for low, very low, and moderate income households. The project is part of Princeton’s affordable housing obligation determined by the state of New Jersey.

“This is not simply a building project. It’s about building welcoming and affordable homes in a very good community,” said PCH Executive Director Ed Truscelli at the groundbreaking ceremony. Truscelli was among several speakers at the virtual event, including longtime residents, staff members, and PCH board members.

“There is more of a need than ever right now,” said Catherine Jaeger, development and communications manager for PCH, in a recent conversation. “The lack of affordable housing in New Jersey has been apparent every year. New Jersey is usually ranked as the fifth or sixth most expensive state to live in. And since the pandemic, the loss of jobs — especially for working class families — has severely impacted housing.”

The PCV project will include enhancements to the existing neighborhood as well as the new building. Improvements to the clubhouse; electric vehicle charging stations; bicycle racks; a package pickup center; underground stormwater management; and native landscaping including trees, shrubs, and rain garden plants are planned.

The new building will have an open porch and a new neighborhood pavilion for socializing. Units range from one to three bedrooms.  Funding for the project comes from the New Jersey Housing Mortgage Finance Association, the municipality of Princeton, and PCH’s ongoing capital campaign, which is about to go public.

Some 40 different countries are represented by residents of PCV. “We have at least one refugee family per year,” said Jaeger. So many different languages are spoken.”

PCV hosts Princeton Young Achievers, an after-school program operated by the Princeton Family YMCA in the onsite Marcy Crimmins Center.  This fall, a certified pre-school program that operates in collaboration with the Princeton Regional School System and the YMCA opened at the site.

Among the speakers at the groundbreaking was Janki Raythatta, a recipient of a college scholarship that enables her to attend New York University. “This community is honestly what I’ve called home for about 18 years,” she said. “Princeton Community Village was built by a community of people who genuinely care for one another, a privilege I didn’t completely comprehend until I moved into the city for college.”

Growing up at PCV, Raythatta took part in improvisation classes at the clubhouse. “It allowed me to build my confidence,” she said. “Acting classes were not something my parents could have afforded.”

Susan O’Malley, PCV’s property manager for the past 25 years, said the community is unique. “It takes a village, and this village takes care of itself,” she said.

It is estimated that the project will be ready in approximately one year.