Through a pilot program called RAD (Rental Assistance Demonstration), a division of the U.S. Dept. of HUD, housing authorities now have the opportunity to transform aging public housing into project-based rental assistance and can seek other avenues of funding.
Mary Jo Grauso, executive director of the Lakewood Housing Authority (LHA), said that the LHA applied for and received approval from HUD to convert the JFK development from Public Housing (PH) to Project-based Rental Assistance (PBRA). PBRA through the RAD program. The LHA (Lakewood Housing Authority) had been receiving less money from HUD every year to maintain and update the JFK development, even as the housing continued to age.
Using a competitive bidding process, the LHA awarded a contract to CIS (Community Investment Strategies), a leading N.J.-based developer of affordable housing that has built Toms River Crescent and Windsor Crescent developments. CIS will partner with the LHA for this conversion.
Among other improvements, the renovated units will have new heating, washers and dryers, and the traffic pattern within the development will be safer. Other features will include security cameras, a management office, 24-hour maintenance on site, and a new community room.
Lakewood Township Committeeman Ray Coles said, “The end result will be a development everyone can be proud to call home.”
Although all residents will be relocated offsite for nine months to one year, not one family will become homeless. All residents will receive Section 8 rental assistance certificate that will enable residents to move anywhere in the country they would like. In addition, all residents will have the right to return to JFK (Chambers Crescent) after the rehab is completed.
Although the LHA will have a land lease with CIS, the JFK housing development is not being sold. When a vacancy exists, CIS must use the Lakewood Public Housing waiting list, which gives Lakewood families a preference.
Grauso said, “We currently have more than a three-year wait for family housing, but we will be able to retain affordable housing for families here in Lakewood.”
Because of the support of Mayor Miller and the Township Committee, who have assisted the housing authority, the project to renovate the JFK development is moving forward. Grauso said, “Our liaison to the LHA, Ray Coles was instrumental in presenting our ideas to the Township Committee, and we have worked together to now upgrade the affordable housing stock in town.”