OCEAN CITY — Officials on Saturday announced the details of a settlement agreement with the Fair Share Housing Center that will add 93 affordable-housing units and cost the city $15 million.
While the center had originally wanted the city to add 1,687 units, officials negotiated the number down in Superior Court, arguing the larger number was unrealistic for a barrier island with so little vacant land.
Officials need to bring their plan before Superior Court for approval March 21.
City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson; Shirley Bishop, a former executive director of the now-defunct state Council on Affordable Housing and current private consultant; Rick Ginnetti, a housing consultant; Jacqueline Jones, executive director of the Ocean City Housing Authority; and Carol Beske, founder of ACT Engineers, hosted a panel discussion and took questions on the settlement during a nearly two-hour-long town hall meeting at the Ocean City Tabernacle on Wesley Avenue.
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The plan is to expand and replace affordable rental units at existing sites — Bayview Manor on West Avenue and Pecks Beach Village on Fourth Street — and add a new building, Speitel Commons, next to Bayview.
“We joined Ocean City’s obligation to build with the Housing Authority’s ownership of land that is suitable for this kind of development, and we’re working in what is essentially a joint venture to create 80 of the 93 units,” McCrosson explained.
Ginnetti estimated it will cost the city $15 million to create the 80 units before the 2025 deadline.
The concept is to create new units that will be “indistinguishable” from other homes in the area, which will boost property values, McCrosson said.
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For the remaining 13 units needed to meet its obligation, the city plans to develop 10 family rental units on city-owned property at 224 Simpson Ave., 240-244 Haven Ave. and 36th Street and the bay. They also plan to purchase three homes through a market-to-affordable program. Under the program, the city would purchase a home at market price, placing a deed restriction that would allow sale only to a qualified buyer.
They will be funded by the $5 million trust that has been collected from developer’s fees for over a decade.
These 13 units were created instead of allowing Flood Development LLC to build a 100-unit, seven-story condo on a parking lot at Eighth Street and Atlantic Avenue and up to 18 affordable units at 16th Street and Haven Avenue, McCrosson said, adding officials didn’t agree with the development so close to the Boardwalk.
Settlements between municipalities and the Fair Share Housing Center, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization based in Cherry Hill, are underway across the state. The center was appointed to set affordable housing obligations for municipalities after a March 2015 state Supreme Court ruling determined COAH to be ineffective.
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Several of the dozens of residents who attended the meeting stood up at the microphone to ask questions and comment on the plan.
Steve Wajda, of Central Avenue, asked the panel to confirm that 60 of the units are already occupied, and that the net gain will only be 33 units of affordable housing.
He said his larger concern was the lack of moderately priced housing in the city, as affordable, year-round rentals are disappearing.
Brenda Green, a resident of Bayview Manor, started to cry when she spoke to the panel. After having a stroke 2½ years ago, she eventually found Bayview, where she has a “good, stable home life.”
“I come from a five-generation family who has lived, worked and thrived in this community,” she said. “The thing that disturbs me is the ‘not in my backyard’ mentality. This is a community that was raised on the backs of the working people, and it needs to stay that way.”