LIVINGSTON, NJ Livingston is one step closer to providing two new affordable homes after the mayor and council joined with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Newark on Monday to celebrate the groundbreaking of a new project at 11 Grand Terrace, which is currently an empty lot, but will soon be transformed into a 1500-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom colonial-style home for a family in need. A second home of similar style will be constructed at 24 Burnet Street. 

Mayor Ed Meinhardt said that the township’s partnership with Habitat for Humanity is the beginning of a new future to provide workforce housing within the township and to inspire a certain level of commitment and volunteerism among the members of the community. According to Meinhardt, the township awarded a total of $582,000 to Habitat for Humanity for these two projects, which included $360,000 to purchase the town-owned parcels, $200,000 toward the construction of the two homes and an additional $25,000 for the replacement trees removed from the property. Habitat for Humanity will also rely on donations, grants and volunteers to complete the project.

“It should be noted that this money did not come from one penny of taxpayer dollars,” said Meinhardt. “It came from the affordable housing trust fund, which by state law requires developers in this town to contribute. We are proud and honored to have [Habitat]. We know all the good will that comes with it, we know all the great volunteerism that comes with this as well, we know that the community will come and help and volunteer and it really just brings the town together.”

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Jeffrey Farrell, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Newark, was on hand at the Grand Terrace location on Monday to thank the township for “putting this together and the opportunity to build affordable (or ‘workforce’) housing in Livingston.”

Farrell explained that the Greater Newark chapter of Habitat for Humanity works in communities throughout Essex, Hudson and Union counties, but these are the non-profit’s first homes in Livingston and that Habitat looks forward to partnering with Livingston and other suburban communities who have affordable housing obligations and wish to provide affordable homeownership opportunity within their communities. 

“We’ve worked in many, many towns in Essex County, and it is very refreshing and inspiring to have such great professional members of the township council and the city to support a project like this and help guide the process,” said Farrell. “This is not so much Habitat coming in as much as it is Habitat partnering with the Township of Livingston.”

In thanking the township, Farrell said that he has worked with three Livingston mayors in the process of bringing this dream to fruition. Thanks to the input of not only Meinhardt, but also Al Anthony and Shawn Klein, the house will now feature an open front porch and attached garage and will also be built to meet “silver guidelines” to make it Energy Star efficient to provide the family with the latest technologies for HVAC and more.

Farrell added that a project like this not only helps a family in need of a home, but also provides the community at large with an opportunity to get involved in the process. He said volunteers from the Livingston High School Habitat for Humanity campus chapter, faith-based organizations, boy and girl scouts, members of the Livingston Township Council and more have already committed to helping build the new home and that he is looking forward to recruiting more.

During the groundbreaking ceremony on Monday, Rabbi Faith Joy Dantowitz of Temple B’nai Abraham recited a blessing and opening prayer, stating that Habitat for Humanity has been close to her heart since her high school classmate, an avid Habitat for Humanity volunteer, was murdered on 9/11. She has since volunteered with Jeff Gardner’s family in his memory, building homes in Newark and surrounding towns. Gardner’s brother and sister, Eric and Amy, look forward to volunteering on the Livingston projects in Jeff’s memory, she said.

“For many, a home of one’s own is a dream unrealized, but with determination, dedication, commitment and faith, this dream is going to reach fruition for new residents in the coming year,” said Dantowitz. “Habitat for Humanity is an incredible organization dedicated to helping people build and live in homes of their own. I’m honored to stand here tonight as a clergy member of the Township of Livingston and I’m so proud of the township’s efforts to help this dream become a reality.”

Farrell announced that both homes should be completed by the end of the year, and that “Partner Families” will provide 200 hours of “sweat equity” to build their very own homes.

“The Partner Family selection process will begin in June and the homes will be sold to pre-qualified low-income families,” said Livingston Township Planning and Land Use Administrator Jackie Coombs-Hollis, who added that applicants for the homes must reside in Essex, Morris, Union or Warren counties.

Hollis said volunteers are being sought to construct the homes over the summer and fall. It is the ideal project for local businesses, faith-based organizations, community groups and individuals, she said.

“We are tremendously proud of our Partner Families,” said Farrell. “The Habitat for Humanity program, with the extensive requirement of sweat equity, attracts proud prospective home owners who are eager to be part of the community and help it thrive.”

To become a Partner Family, to volunteer or to donate, visit www.HabitatNewark.org.

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