By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna says all too often people hear that residents that are fleeing New Jersey for cheaper places to live. He doesn’t necessarily buy it, and suggests those reports be taken with a grain of salt.
At the same time, though, he said he understands the state needs to move on a different, more sustainable course, particularly in the housing market, which has been shaky at best the last few years.
“Municipalities need to change. Red Bank needs to change,” Menna said.
Part of that change began Friday, he said, when the borough became the fifth municipality in Monmouth County, and the 34th in the state, to join a statewide program to help make employees residents of the towns they work in.
Called Live Where You Work, the program offers first-time home buyers a chance at getting a low-interest, fixed-rate mortgage loan to live in Red Bank, plus the opportunity to get down payment and closing costs covered by the state Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency.
Getting on board with the program puts Red Bank in the right direction to retain and draw in the younger generation of homeowners, a large target of the initiative, said Tony Marchetta, the agency’s executive director.
“We have to get our cities back to places where young people not only want to play in, but work in,” he said. “They bring a vitality to the community.”
Councilwoman Kathy Horgan cited a recent news story saying that median New Jersey incomes fell by 2.3 percent in the last year, and with the housing market the way it is, this program is a good jump-start to stimulate Red Bank’s local economy.
“Live Where You Work is really in the forefront of changing all that,” she said. “Challenging times demand creative solutions, and Live Where You Work is a creative solution.”
Middletown is next in line to participate in the program, and Atlantic Highlands is close to getting on board, Marchetta said.