ATLANTIC CITY — At the corner of North New York and Adriatic avenues sits a group of eight small apartments that are more than 100 years old, more than twice the national average age for a home.
The property is emblematic of a larger issue facing the resort as it looks to rebound from years of casino closings and job losses: the age of the city housing stock.
While other towns on Absecon Island have seen their housing constantly updated through teardowns and redevelopment, Atlantic City housing has remained largely the same over the past 60 years.
“Most of the city housing stock hasn’t been updated since the post-World War II building boom,” said Bryant Simon, a Temple University professor and author of “Boardwalk of Dreams: Atlantic City and the Fate of Urban America.”
“Like many, the city trusted the private sector to take care of the situation, and it did not,” he said.
However, officials hope the opening of several high-profile projects, including the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and the Ocean Resort Casino at the former Revel site, will create a demand — and in turn lead to a supply — for new market-rate housing in the resort.
Updating the city’s housing has become a focus, as the city looks to rebound from a decade of economic struggle. A 2016 report by the city’s Planning Department stated that creating a market rate and home ownership should be a priority and would benefit the local economy.
“Vacation/second homes, live/work lofts, casino and healthcare workforce housing, single and duplex residential on vacant lots, and owners’ and renters’ apartments above stores are recommended to diversify the housing options and costs,” the report said. “The encouragement and possible subsidy through land donations, tax abatements or low-interest construction loans or mortgages can be considered to jump start interest in the Atlantic City housing market by households that can help to balance the economy.”
When casino gaming was approved more than 40 years ago, it was touted as a way to improve the resort, however, it failed to bring additional housing, Simon said.
“The casinos created two major voids. First, they bought up property, and then no one really wants to live next to a casino. The parking lots, the noise, the lights — it’s a mess,” Simon said. “Also, there has always been a lack of planning in Atlantic City.”
The lack of high-paying jobs has also held back the development of new housing in the city, according to the report.
“A discussion of housing must acknowledge the excessive and disproportionate number of low-paying service-industry jobs that make it difficult for the housing stock to be renovated and replaced,” the report said. “A correlation also exists between educational opportunities, well-paying jobs and decent housing stock. Any effort to develop higher-paying jobs in the city, and improve education, would contribute to the demand for housing by a variety of income levels.”
The housing stock is expected to get a much-needed boost in the summer when The Beach at South Inlet opens. The project is the city’s first market-rate development in at least 25 years, Mayor Frank Gilliam said. The $81 million residential complex, which will feature 250 apartments, will help rejuvenate the city’s aging housing.
“An updated housing stock is something that every city needs,” Gilliam said. “Attracting people to the city is critical to keeping it alive.”
The opening of Hard Rock’s new property next summer at the site of the former Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort and the possible reopening of the former Revel makes the area attractive to potential residents, said Wasseem Boraie, vice president of Boraie Development LLC, the developer of the Beach at South Inlet project.
Hard Rock International and investors Jack Morris and Joe Jingoli are spending more than $500 million renovating and rebranding the property. The project is expected to generate more than 1,000 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent jobs, according to the company.
“There are going to be a lot of young people who want to be here,” Boraie said. “We keep hearing about Revel reopening, you see the great investment that Hard Rock International is making in their property, now you are going to have 5,000 jobs that weren’t here when we started.”