The June 2019 issue is available now

Focus: Housing

June 2019 NJ Municipalities magazine cover

Building Special Needs Housing

Meeting the needs of this population segment can be a win-win for municipalities

In an interview with former Allendale Mayor Liz White and Tom Toronto, Executive Director, Bergen County United Way, the pair discussed the key ingredients to their successful municipal/non-profit partnership to build special needs affordable housing.

Q: How did you tackle the issue of affordable housing in Allendale?

A: Liz White: We looked at our plan and we decided that the best thing to do would be to just tackle it head-on and actually provide the housing to the population that really needed it. And we looked at our special needs population and realized we had residents in our own town who were getting on in years and the only space they could
find or their son with special needs was in South Jersey, nowhere near their family. So that was the start of us saying, “This is a great opportunity for Allendale, for the special needs population, and to address our affordable housing obligations.”

A: Tom Toronto: We were just starting out in terms of being an affordable housing developer. And we had the incredible good fortune to connect with a governing body that, as Liz said, decided to be proactive. We, I think, set a different standard, and challenged some conventional wisdom at the state in terms of how housing for people with
developmental disabilities could be done. The Orchard Commons project was the first project that allowed for consumer choice. So, empowering folks with developmental disabilities to choose where they live as opposed from having to subscribe, if you will, to a service provider.

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Featured Article

Building Special Needs Housing

Restoring a Business, Reviving a Neighborhood

663 Main Avenue went from a faded glory to an impetus for renewal in Passaic

In October 1931, the New York Times reported on the opening of a lavish commercial building in the City of Passaic. The project was a grand, 11-story art-deco tower that rose far above the city’s vibrant downtown. Interestingly, the project began just prior to the Great Depression and ended two years later, while the country was in economic turmoil. But after some rough patches at the onset, the building flourished as a 2019 Smart Growth Award Winner and a destination for professional offices for doctors, lawyers, accountants, and even Congressmen.

Fast forward 35 years. The bank and the high profile professional tenants were leaving, part of an exodus many industrial cities saw with their downtowns decimated during the 1960s by flight to the suburbs. By 1970s the property had changed hands several times and the newest owners were content to rent the retail spaces on the basement and first floors. By the 1980s the building became fully vacant. Except for paying their property taxes the owners did little with this asset. Repairs languished until the deteriorated condition posed a significant safety hazard, with windows flying from the upper floors to the heavily traveled commercial corridor below.

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In this Issue

Conference Preview

The 104th Annual League Conference will be held in the Atlantic City Convention Center Tuesday, Nov.19 through Thursday, Nov. 21. NJ Municipalities magazine kicked off coverage of the event with a preview, including a rundown of dates to remember and an initial list of exhibitors.

View the Annual Conference Preview on page 45 (with subscription).

About NJ Municipalities

NJ Municipalities serves as a forum for the exchange of ideas and information on municipal affairs, new initiatives and changing legislation for public officials in New Jersey. This magazine has been a news source for local government organizations for over 100 years, and is available in print and digital format. Published monthly, with the exception of July, August and September.


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