NEWARK, NJ - New plans were detailed for a public housing complex in the East Ward that was once slated to be closed down and demolished, displacing residents who had lived there for years.
The redevelopment plan for Millard Terrell Homes, first built in 1946, were laid out Tuesday by Newark Housing Authority Director Victor Cirilo during a presentation to city council members. Under the plan, three buildings - or 60 units - in the complex will be rehabilitated, while the other buildings - or 215 units - would be demolished and rebuilt, Cirilo said.
“The housing authority has an aging housing stock, some of it going back to the late 30s and early 40s,” Cirilo said after the meeting. “This is one of the properties that is in worse shape than the other older properties.”
The complex, which is currently all Section 8 housing, was constructed in an area prone to flooding along the Passaic River. When Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012, it caused mold and infrastructure issues to the already aging plumbing and electrical systems in the complex, Cirilo said.
Cirilo’s predecessor in the housing authority initially planned to demolish the buildings entirely, sparking outrage among residents and groups like the Ironbound Community Corporation. Chief among their concerns was that the tight-knit community of residents who have lived there would be pushed out as the surrounding Riverfront District was revitalized.
“We’re on the right track because of the involvement of residents and the stated commitment to preserve these affordable housing units on site,” said Ironbound Community Corporation Director Joseph Della Fave in a phone interview. “There are real challenges involved, so we’ll work with the housing authority and we’ll continue to monitor all this because it’s not going to be an easy lift.”
The Newark Housing Authority said in a summary handed out to council members that it will “expect” housing vouchers to be given to residents who live in the buildings that are slated to be demolished and rebuilt. Those residents will be given the right to return once construction is completed, Cirilo explained to council members.
While there are 275 units overall in Terrell Homes, only 196 are currently occupied, Cirilo said. At a minimum, there will be 196 affordable units once the redevelopment plan is completed, Cirilo said.
The plan calls for 88 additional units to be constructed, bringing the total in the complex to 363, Cirilo said. It’s unclear if the currently vacant and additional apartments will also be affordable. Those units may be market-rate to offset any funding gaps for the project, he said.
The Newark Housing Authority will remain the owner and developer of the project.
Cirilo said $26 million would be needed for immediate fixes, while $40 million would be needed in the long term. Finding funds for the project was also a concern for Fave, the Ironbound Community Corporation director.
Two funding programs are proposed for the project, the federal Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program will be used for the three buildings that will be renovated, while the federal Section 18 Demolition and Disposition program will be used for remaining buildings that will be demolished and rebuilt.
The only hurdle is to get approval for those programs. The RAD application was submitted in June and the Section 18 Demolition and Disposition application was submitted in August.
The housing authority will also be putting in an application to the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Financing Agency for tax credits as early as next year and as late as 2020, Cirilo said.
A completion date for the project is dependent upon how quickly the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development responds to the city's RAD and Section 18 applications. Cirilo said he expects a response by the end of the year.
East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador stressed at the meeting Tuesday that residents should benefit from the Riverfront District’s redevelopment plan.
“One of the myths out there is that because it's close to the river, once the river gets cleaned up, this is going to be sold to provide market-rate housing,” Amador said. “We need to get rid of that myth right now.”