Hoboken Housing Authority Weighing Large-Scale Overhaul
A plan to overhaul the HHA was presented to the board on Thursday night; executive director called many of the current buildings "obsolete."
The Hoboken Housing Authority is considering a new plan for its buildings, with the goal of completely transforming the way affordable housing units fit into the city.
Architects and financial advisers at Thursday night’s HHA meeting and presented a detailed account of what the housing area would look like.
A complete overhaul of the Housing Authority is necessary, said HHA Executive Director Carmelo Garcia, because many of the current buildings are “obsolete.”
“We don’t have the money to replace every roof, every elavator,” Garcia said.
The 1950s buildings in the area around Mama Johnson Field, house 808 units. The buildings are built on a different grid than the rest of Hoboken. When walking west on Third Street, Marchetto said, the Housing Authority is clearly very different from the rest of Hoboken.
The goal of the plan —labeled the Vision 20/20 plan —Marchetto said, is to have the housing authority blend in with the rest of Hoboken.
“(The buildings) cannot meet the current safety codes,” said architect Dean Marchetto, who presented the plan to the board on Thursday night. Moreover, the buildings “can never be brought up to code,” added Marchetto, who works for architecture firm Marchatto, Higgins, Stieve.
In many buildings, stairways and elevators are too narrow; some buildings have only one stairwell as opposed to the required two, experts said.
The Vision 20/20 plan will consist of ten phases, according to Robert Powell, a financial adviser to the HHA board. The first phase that was proposed, is to build a new residential building for low income housing on the parking lot of the Monroe Street senior building.
Erecting a new building will cost approximately $8 million, Powell said. The HHA can apply for a special tax credits that would pay for $7 million of it. The remaining $1 million will by financed by the HHA in the form of a mortgage.
The new building would add 32 new units to the HHA. Currently the waiting list is 794 people long, Garcia said.
In order to apply for the low income tax credit program that would pay for about 80 percent of the first phase of the plan, the HHA has to submit an application to the state’s Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency by November.
The entire plan—with its total of ten phases—Powell said, will be at least $175 million. All the different phases of the plan will have to be funded with the help of tax credits or other funding opportunities. While initially the plan was to have a new housing authority by the year 2020, it will likely take longer. If the HHA starts with phase one as soon as this fall, the first new building could be ready for its inhabitants by 2015.
That lot is currently the only place to build a new building without displacing anybody, Garcia said.
“I don’t know if I believe that,” Councilman and HHA Commissioner David Mello said in a phone conversation following the meeting. Mello added he would have liked to see “more options.” When asked which location would be better in the current housing authority area, he said he didn’t know without input from professional architects.
Under the Vision 20/20 plan, the blocks in the housing authority region would be as densely populated as the rest of Hoboken. The goal is to complete the project without any displacement.
Mello said he “may or may not” support the first phase, but would not support as many as 1600 apartments in the Housing Authority area (right now there are about 800 units). The density of the rest of Hoboken, Mello said, is not condusive to families with two or three children, of which there are many in the Housing Authority.
“If we’re not putting more units,” former HHA commissioner and Hoboken resident Perry Belfiore said, “where are you putting the people?”
“Where are you going to put us?” one resident from the audience asked the board. “We have nowhere to go.”
The current housing authority buildings are inefficient and prevent any upward mobility, Garcia said. The only type of housing available in the HHA is low income. Vision 20/20 is supposed to offer middle-income housing as well, for those tenants who can leave the HHA. Currently, there is no other place to go in Hoboken for those tenants.
Ultimately, the decision to build new residences and change the entire area is up to the Authority as well as the city’s zoning board. A HHA subcommittee will be formed to review the plan within 30 days.