By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
An entirely new type of affordable housing will be built at different locations in Ocean City now that a combination of more than $4 million in state and local funding has been nailed down for the projects.
Five duplexes having a total of 10 rental units of affordable housing will be completed in 2023 for families of low and moderate incomes.
City Councilman Bob Barr, who also serves as chairman of the Ocean City Housing Authority, noted that the design of the duplexes will fit right in with the neighborhoods where they will be built.
“The goal is that these 10 scattered affordable housing units are going to blend into the community. If you drive by them, you will otherwise not know,” Barr said in an interview Thursday.
The construction contract has already been awarded. Under a tentative schedule, construction will begin in September and be completed by next May.
Two duplexes will be built at 3300 Bay Ave. at the former American Legion post property, another two at 240-244 Haven Ave. and the fifth at 224 Simpson Ave. They will offer a mix of two or three-bedroom units.
The duplexes “will fill the gaps within the existing affordable housing ecosystem, build on current assets and investments, and add value to neighborhoods by addressing housing needs in an equitable way,” according to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.
“I am excited to see these affordable housing units become a reality. They will help strengthen the Ocean City community, creating more diverse neighborhoods, while keeping Cape May County vibrant and prosperous,” Lt. Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver, who also serves as DCA Commissioner, said in a news release. “The rental units will provide 10 families with the opportunity to have an affordable place to call home.”
A $2 million grant from the DCA through the Affordable Housing Trust Fund will help the city to finance construction of the duplexes. Barr said the Ocean City Housing Authority has just learned that the DCA will be contributing an additional $450,000 for the project.
The city, meanwhile, is kicking in about $2.2 million in an agreement with the Ocean City Housing Authority and its nonprofit affiliate, the Ocean City Community Development Corp. The Community Development Corp. will oversee the project. City Council approved the funding agreement at its meeting July 21.
Altogether, the combination of state and city funding comes to about $4.6 million. Barr said the additional $450,000 from the DCA might mean the city’s contribution could be reduced. There is also a possibility the extra money could go for some other aspect of the project, such as cost overruns, if there are any, he said.
The duplexes will help the city meet its state-mandated obligation to provide its “fair share” of affordable housing under a court settlement in 2018.
As part of that effort, the housing authority built a nearly $7 million affordable housing complex for senior citizens at the corner of Sixth Street and West Avenue. Known as Speitel Commons, the 32-unit complex opened last year.
Unlike the more common and larger affordable housing complexes such as Speitel Commons, the five duplexes will be a much smaller type of affordable housing distinctly residential in nature.
Families will have to fall within certain income levels to be eligible to live in the duplexes. The housing authority will begin considering applicants later on.
Barr said that whoever moves into the duplexes will be expected to be “stewards of the neighborhood.”
“They have to do everything that the other people who live in the neighborhood are expected to do,” he said.
He stressed that he, Mayor Jay Gillian and the other members of City Council and the Ocean City Housing Authority are “very serious” about having the five duplexes blend in seamlessly with the surrounding neighborhoods.
“We want this to work out and be a shining example of what affordable housing can be in a setting like this one,” Barr said.