Mahwah Plans New Affordable Housing Complex For Route 202
Unit, which could go up as early as next year, would include housing for special needs and senior citizen residents
Mahwah will be applying to use some of its Municipal Housing Trust Fund money to build a new affordable housing unit on the corner of Ramapo Valley Road and Strysko Ave., Township Business Administrator Brian Campion said at a town council meeting last month. The plan for the unit, which would be built under the direction of the United Way, would house two separate structures, one catering to special needs residents, and the other to low-income senior citizens, he said.
Representatives from the United Way presented a “rough conceptual design” of the project to the township council at its last meeting. The layout, they said, would be similar to the Orchard Commons development in Allendale. Though the final designs could change, the current plans would accommodate for 22 special needs residents and include 12 senior units.
To build the project, the township is asking the state to use $1.275M of the money in its Municipal Housing Trust Fund. According to Campion, Mahwah must prove it has a plan in action to use the money before a July 17 deadline, when the state can seize funds in the account that the municipality has not yet used.
According to NJ.com, Governor Chris Christie last week vetoed a bill that would have extended the deadline by two years. “If we do not commit to a plan, our four year-old funds will be subject to being taken by the state,” Campion said at the meeting.
To fund the rest of the project, which is estimated to cost about $2.2M, Campion said the township will apply for a home funds grant from the county. “We do have that amount of money in our Municipal Housing Fund,” Campion said, but just the $1.275M has the looming usage deadline. “We can cover the full costs [with that fund] if we do not get the grant,” he said.
The new housing unit, Campion said, would be fully funded “without the use of taxpayer money.”
According to Tom Toronto, the President of the Bergen County United Way, plans for this unit in Mahwah have been in the works “for almost a full year.” Toronto said his agency first approached the township about it after a parent of a special needs individual saw the Allendale facility, and asked if something similar could be built in Mahwah.
“At that time, we took then Mayor John DaPuzzo and then Council President John Roth on a tour of Orchard Commons,” Toronto said. “They were interested, but the township needed a piece of land to develop the project on.”
Last Fall, the Webster family announced to the township it was interested in donating a 1.2-acre plot of land at the corner of Route 202 and Strysko Ave., across the street from the Mahwah Bar and Grill, to Mahwah. The township is in the midst of accepting the gift now.
“We had been thinking about reaching out to the property owner there, because the plot of land was perfect for the development,” Toronto said. “The fact that the [Webster] family wanted to donate it was a remarkable coincidence.”
The donation “really got the project rolling,” he said. The United Way has already completed a land survey and environmental analysis of the site. The next step, he said, is to secure funding, then begin a planning board site plan application and apply for permits in the township to build the complex.
“We could potentially see construction starting in 2013,” Campion said. “We are looking at an eight or nine month building period, so it could be done in 2014.”
The general consensus among the presenters and councilmembers at the meeting was that the complex would be a positive addition to the township, especially for specific communities.
“Orchard Commons allows for local preference, so I’m sure we could do the same thing here,” Toronto said, meaning that Mahwah residents would have an increased chance of being approved to live in the units. Three of the 10 Orchards Commons residents are from Allendale, he said.
According to Mayor Bill Laforet, the township’s administration suggested adding the senior housing component to the plan, which originally called for just the special needs unit. “We think there is a great opportunity here to foster relationships between the seniors and the special needs residents,” he said. “It could be a great way for these two populations to form important and mutually helpful relationships.”
The complex should also satisfy affordable housing obligations the township needs to fulfill. “COAH is a mess, so the state might not be able to quantify exactly what our obligation is,” Campion said at the meeting. “But, the township does have some sort of an affordable housing obligation.”
Toronto said the project would be added to three other projects – one in Ramsey, one in Allendale and one in Fairview – the United Way is working on. In New Jersey, 8,000 people with developmental disabilities are on a waiting list for housing, he said. “This would definitely be a help.”