Johnnie Brown has waited three years to buy a home. In April 2008, he entered a lottery for one of 72 affordable housing units in Lakewood. His was the 400th number picked. So the 47-year-old housekeeper and father of four focused on building his credit — attending programs, paying bills on time. When another chance for a subsidized mortgage comes around, he’ll be ready. “I’ve just been waiting on the houses to get built,” Brown said. His chance might be coming soon. Following a yearlong delay, another lottery is on the horizon for 60 more townhouses. Yet the project that these units are a part of still faces logistical and image challenges. After the first 72 condominiums of what is slated to be one of the state’s largest purely affordable housing efforts were built and sold off Vine Avenue, questions arose over whether the project was shaping to be as diversified as it should be.
Rather than blame an unfair process, some black and Latino leaders pointed to a lack of preparation and enthusiasm from their minority home-seekers — not to mention that, by this time, Orthodox Jews’ majority in the 72 units comes close to matching its majority of Lakewood’s population.
Still, concerns remained, and, in part, to quell them, housing leaders made a point of identifying a different kind of development as the likely next phase of the 400-unit project — one by a different developer that offers smaller and cheaper homes.
That is no longer the plan. Instead, the next phase will probably be an extension of the first 72 units, developers say, causing at least one housing watchdog to turn skeptical.
“We want to see as much affordable housing moving forward as possible,” said Adam Gordon, an attorney with the statewide Fair Share Housing Center. “Why one development is moving forward and the other developments aren’t is what we’d like answered.”
The answer, according to project developers, lies with a water pump station. For more than a year, the entire project has been held up by a pump station that can’t seem to be realized. Yet the 60-unit extension was able to bypass the snag when engineers discovered they don’t need it. Because of an increased sewage pipe capacity and the slope of the land, they can work off the existing main pump station, said the developer, Shmuel Lefkowitz. Read Zach Patberg’s full artcle in APP.