A 36-unit affordable housing project envisioned alongside a rail yard on Red Bank’s West Side sailed to unanimous approval by the borough zoning board in less than two hours last night.
The board had called a special meeting for the purpose of hearing the proposal because the non-profit developer, Red Bank Bank Affordable Housing Corp., was under the gun to enhance its chances of obtaining construction funding from a program administered by Monmouth County.
Despite deficiencies such as a 13-space parking shortage and complete absence of recreation space that have ensnared other applications, board members praised the plan for advancing the goal of home ownership for low-and-moderate income families who are otherwise priced out of town.
“It’s nice that finally somebody’s doing something for the people and not for their pocket,” said board member Chris Ferrigine.
“It’s a wonderful project,” said board member Karen Waldman, who called the variances sought “negligible.”
The plan, known as Cedar Crossing, encompasses an irregularly shaped two-acre parcel alongside the Conrail freight line touching on Cedar, Catherine and River streets. It will consist of 18 two-bedroom units and 18 three-bedroom units, each with a handicapped bathroom on the first floor.
The townhouse-style homes are to be 1,100 and 1,200 square feet in area, slightly under the zoning requirement, which, along with the parking and open-space shortfalls, was one reason the plan needed board approval.
The builder hopes to be able to offer the homes at prices of $85,000 to $145,000, said Rev. Terrence K. Porter, president of the development entity’s board. Rentals will be prohibited, and the units will sell with deed restrictions limiting price markups, he said. Porter is the pastor of the Pilgrim Baptist Church on Shrewsbury Avenue.
The site was acquired by the borough in 2007 using $2.45 million in state Department of Community Affairs funding. The borough later designated its housing authority, which manages two federally subsidize rental complexes, to oversee the project, though a homeowners’ association will be formed to pay for snow removal and maintenance.
After last night’s approval, Porter said that, even with free land and the approvals in hand, the project faces significant hurdles if it is to beat the state deadline for completion by 2012. Foremost among those is obtaining $3.6 million in construction funding, or an average $100,000 per home.
Porter said the zoning board’s quick approval was critical to keeping the project ahead of schedule. The project’s board, which includes former Mayor Ed McKenna, wants to be first in line for funding from a Monmouth County program called CHOICE, he said. But barring full funding for the project coming from that source, “we certainly anticipate going to banks and tapping Red Bank’s money for affordable-housing set-asides,” he said.
“Working-class families are challenged in their ability to live here,” he said. “We’re creating opportunities for families to live in a wonderful community like Red Bank yet still live within their means.”
William Poku of Bank Street, a longtime advocate for affordable housing, called Cedar Crossing “a great project, and a great step forward for Red Bank.”