For the past 10 years, Walters has been creating premium affordable housing that is 100 percent income-restricted and sustainable. The company has delivered a dozen developments throughout New Jersey, and several more are currently under development.
The positive benefits and lasting effects of affordable housing impact both the residents living in the homes as well as the communities in which they are located.
Each year, more people struggle to afford living in the communities where they work because of a lack of affordable housing stock. Even older adults who have lived for decades in a community have few opportunities to downsize.
Many young adults who want to raise their own families in the communities where they grew up cannot afford “starter homes” today. Affordable housing, however, enables people to live where they choose based on their needs and aspirations.
A Princeton University study of affordable housing development in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, found numerous benefits: Families moving into high-quality affordable housing experience a safer neighborhood, lower crime rates, better mental health, strong rates of employment and higher wages.
By saving money on rent, families can spend more of their household incomes on essentials such as food and healthcare. The study also revealed that many fears of the negative effects of affordable housing were unfounded.
Housing is expensive in New Jersey in general, and for many populations whose incomes are limited, the high cost is a huge burden. It’s commonly known that more people are leaving the state than are moving in, and the high cost of housing plays a large role in that exodus.
A working family should not have to spend more than 30 percent of its income on housing costs. Unfortunately, there are 11 million families in the United States who are paying more than half of their income for housing. And the number paying over 30 percent is even larger. This often creates a struggle for families to afford life’s other essentials such as food, clothing, transportation and education.
This is especially true in New Jersey as housing costs in the state are among the highest in the nation. For most of the workers earning less than the median income in the state, it is almost impossible to find a home they can afford near their job and in a good school district. Affordable housing addresses this vital need.
Decent affordable housing is important to families, and we saw the benefits in a real-life success story involving one of our resident families.
Monica Clarke is a single-mom with three children who moved into Laurel Oaks, an income-restricted apartment development built by Walters in downtown Barnegat. Several years ago, Monica was going through some hard times when she learned there was availability in the newly opened community. By renting a two-bedroom apartment, her dream of a stable home life for her three boys became a reality.
Living at Laurel Oaks was a beneficial move for the entire Clarke family. Notably, Monica’s two oldest sons were able to attend college and her youngest son made the dean’s list in high school. And not to be outdone, Monica also went back to school to earn her medical assistant certificate.
Walters is committed to serving the needs of New Jersey’s residents by providing safe, decent rental opportunities. In some cases, we’ve met
resistance, but it’s important to educate people on what affordable properties are about and what they can accomplish.
This year, the company opened three new income-restricted communities: Cornerstone at Seaside Heights, Cornerstone at Delanco and Cornerstone at Stafford. Each development provides affordable housing for local people who otherwise would find it difficult to remain in the area.
These communities have many elements in common; each is attuned to the specific needs of its occupants and to its host community. The communities offer residents modern amenities and services while generating a sense of community and all are LEED and ENERGY STAR certified.
Cornerstone at Seaside Heights is located on a barrier island. Walters was able to help turn around a distressed neighborhood with new development, demolishing several aging buildings — a former Travel Inn Motel, lumberyard, hardware store and five-unit apartment building — that stood on the site. The aging motel, which remained open even after heavy damage from Hurricane Sandy, was attracting crime and was in mortgage foreclosure.
With support from local officials, the company built a 95,000-square-foot building using wind- and
impact-resistant materials to create safe and resilient housing. In addition to improving the borough’s image, the development created much-needed affordable apartments for the area’s senior population, many of whom want to continue to live at the Jersey Shore but may have been priced out of the market. Overall, the new age-restricted (55-plus) building has been transformative for the borough.
Cornerstone at Seaside Heights offers high-end amenities such as access to outdoor spaces from upper-level decks and private balconies on most units. The community also offers a fitness center, community room, onsite social services coordinator, elevators, secured key fob access, intercom entry and cameras. Apartment features include upgraded finishes, energy efficient appliances, dishwasher and garbage disposals, emergency alert systems and washers and dryers.
The success of these developments is the hands-on management process at Walters. By maintaining ownership and managing every property with onsite property managers and social services coordinators, the firm can provide support services and programs that create a maintenance-free, easy lifestyle and healthy living experience for residents.
Going forward, a growing demand for affordable housing will continue throughout the state. In the past, supply has not kept pace with demand, but communities today are now working to meet the diverse needs of their aging and lower-income residents with great results.
— By Joseph Del Duca, partner, director of affordable housing, Walters. This article first appeared in the October 2019 issue of Northeast Real Estate Business magazine.