A Casino Reinvestment Development Authority proposal to provide $1.2 million to convert a few vacant rooming houses won’t transform Atlantic City’s housing landscape.
And that’s OK, at least for now, because it’s clear there is still no long-range vision for how to rebuild and reshape the city and its housing stock.
So let’s just call this proposal an experiment, test it quickly, gauge the appetite for the conversion loans. Meanwhile, both CRDA and the city should be working on developing a more thorough strategy.
After decades of neglect, Atlantic City’s housing and zoning issues need to be addressed. What the city needs is a clear purpose that works for both housing inside and out of the CRDA-controlled tourism zone. This plan must be realistic and factor in the city’s economy, workforce and its history.
Housing options should take into account that many of the city’s jobs are low-paying and therefore include homes or living options that those workers can afford.
Another factor to consider: A key to Atlantic City’s future is growing the city’s population by 10,000 to 20,000 residents, thereby putting more properties on the tax rolls and adding life and business to the city’s neighborhoods.
Those new residents will be workers and second-home owners, and they’ll need a variety of housing options. Some will want to live near their jobs, a definite perk, while others will want to be near the city’s waterfront, beaches and Boardwalk.
The city’s history should not be disregarded. When Atlantic City was its most populous, around 1910, it boasted nearly 50,000 residents, according to the city’s master plan of a decade ago.The number of boarding houses numbered 700, the plan stated.
The underlying theme of housing then was that, as a tourist destination, this city required massive numbers of workers and built housing for them to live nearby.
As casino, development and city officials envision the future of the city, they need to take into account all these factors that have shaped it so far. Fortunately, Atlantic City has a chance to address these issues and provide the best vision for its path forward when it provides a new master plan for the city this June.