By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Ocean City’s public housing agency has secured a major piece of funding for a nearly $25 million project that will provide affordable housing for local families.
The New Jersey Housing Mortgage Finance Agency has approved $4 million in funding for the proposed 60-unit project that will replace the aging Pecks Beach Village housing complex on Fourth Street in the north end of town.
The Ocean City Housing Authority announced the HMFA funding during its monthly board meeting Tuesday. The HMFA money will be part of a mix of state, city, housing authority and private financing for the project.
The HMFA is providing $4 million in funding through New Jersey’s Affordable Housing Production Fund program. In addition, the HMFA is expected to supply about $12.8 million in loans for the project, according to the housing authority’s breakdown of the funding.
City Councilman Bob Barr, who also serves as the housing authority’s chairman, said one key aspect of the HMFA funding is that it will “lessen the burden” on local taxpayers to finance the housing project.
“It’s great. It will lessen the burden on taxpayers. I’m super-excited,” he said.
Barr said collaboration between the authority’s board and staff members has been vital in moving the project forward.
“We said we would do it all along. I have full confidence in the team, and this is the reason why,” he said.
The housing authority hopes to go out to bid for the construction contract this summer. Construction is expected to begin about a year from now and take an estimated 18 months to complete, which would put the grand opening in late 2025 or early 2026, according to the authority’s tentative construction timetable.
The project will help Ocean City meet its state-mandated obligation to provide its “fair share” of affordable housing under a court settlement in 2018.
The city is expected to contribute $5.8 million in financing for the project. A combination of grants and loans from the HMFA, funding from the Ocean City Housing Authority and tax credits given to private investors in the project will also be part of the funding.
Jacqueline Jones, the housing authority’s executive director, said the estimated price tag for the project has been increased from $22 million or $23 million to $24.8 million to reflect higher construction costs that are anticipated in the next two or three years.
The design of the project will feature 15 duplex-style buildings containing four units each for the families living there, housing authority officials said during a presentation made before the Ocean City Planning Board on April 5.
Representatives of the housing authority repeatedly stressed during their presentation that the development reflects the agency’s philosophy to build new projects that are compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods.
“We’re going to make it feel like the rest of the city and the rest of the community,” said Rick Ginnetti, owner of the Brooke Group, a consulting firm assisting the authority with the project.
The planning board gave its approval for the project after the presentation, representing a crucial step as the housing authority moves ahead in phases that will include lining up the financing, awarding the construction contract and breaking ground in coming months.
Altogether, the 60-unit project will include four units that have one bedroom, 32 units with two bedrooms, 22 units with three bedrooms and two units with four bedrooms.
A total of 40 units will be subsidized housing, while the remaining 20 units will be considered affordable, unsubsidized units commonly known as “workforce housing.” There will be income limits to ensure the complex is occupied by residents having low and moderate incomes, housing authority officials said.
The project is proposed on Fourth Street and will replace the existing Pecks Beach Village housing complex dating to the 1960s.
The Pecks Beach Village complex formerly consisted of two parts – a 20-unit enclave of cottage-style housing for senior citizens and 40 units of affordable housing for families along Fourth Street.
The 20 units of senior housing on the north side of Fourth Street were torn down last year to create room for the proposed project consisting of 60 units of affordable housing for families.
The senior citizens who lived in the flood-prone, 20-unit complex were moved into the housing authority’s newly built $7 million, 32-unit Speitel Commons housing development at Sixth Street and West Avenue.
Meanwhile, the existing 40 units of family housing at Pecks Beach Village on the south side of Fourth Street will remain until the housing authority builds the new 60 units. The 40-unit complex will likely be demolished in stages as residents move into the new development.