In a last minute move to avoid losing some $2.5 million in federal housing funds city officials are set to award the at-risk money to a city agency and a non-profit.
A plan presented before the city council calls for $1.8 million to go to the Paterson Housing Authority and Property Management to build more affordable housing units on Alabama Avenue at the former site of the Alexander Hamilton Public Housing Projects, where now stands townhouses designed using the principles of new urbanism.
$700,000 will be awarded to the New Jersey Community Development Corporation (NJCDC), to purchase a building on Elm Street for renovation and the creation of 12 affordable housing units, according to a plan submitted by the non-profit.
Both projects will create more market rate housing, said mayor Jose “Joey” Torres. Council president Julio Tavarez argued that the city has its share of low-income housing and it isn’t in need of any new units.
Tavarez compared the money from the HOME program, a federal grant program to build and rehabilitate low-income housing, to Regional Contribution Agreement (RCA) funds, where affluent towns were able transfer their obligations to build low-income housing to the city. “These are not like those funds,” reassured Torres. “Unlike RCA funds where other towns are able to give their affordable housing obligation, this is our obligation, this is money we’re entitled to because of the poverty and the age of our housing.”
Torres said the federal government issues HOME grants based on the need of a specific census tract. The mayor said two-thirds of the city falls within that designated poverty area making it an obligation on the city to provide safe and affordable housing through these funds.
Explaining that affordable and low-income housing are just buzz words being thrown around when in fact both projects will create mixed housing units and nothing like the notorious Alabama Projects.
“If we continue to build low-income housing in the city, we run the risk of becoming a virtual housing project,” stated Tavarez. “I don’t think that’s the future of Paterson.”
Briefing the council on both projects the mayor said: “Both of these projects applied a year ago and they were not awarded. The individuals that were awarded did not have the capacity, so now it’s use it or lose it.”
The city has until July 31st to spend the money or forfeit it. Morris joked that former council president and 6th Ward councilman Andre Sayegh was fond of saying no funds were lost under the auspices of Tavarez, but now the city risks funds.
“I’m not the chairman, sir,” retorted Tavarez.
“If we don’t pass this, it will actually happen,” said Morris.
“Under you!” joked Tavarez
Both the agency and the corporation have ample experience undertaking projects in the city, said Morris, making them safe bets to ensure no money is returned to the federal government.