The struggle to find affordable housing is real for working-class families, with rent prices skyrocketing and interest rates rising, making it more difficult to purchase a starter home.
Burlington County’s current average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,260 per month, and a three-bedroom apartment costs $1,567 per month, according to RentData.org.
Financial consultants recommend buyers spend 25 percent of monthly income on rent or a mortgage. But many struggling families are paying more than 50 percent.
To alleviate that, the county board of commissioners approved $1.3 million in loans two weeks ago for developers of three affordable-housing projects.
“We’ve heard from residents searching for more affordable housing opportunities, and these projects will help meet that demand,” said County Commissioner Felicia Hopson, liaison to the Department of Human Services.
“By providing this financing, we’re helping to ensure young adults, working families and senior citizens can continue to live safely and securely in Burlington County and benefit from our stellar schools, job opportunities and overall quality of life,” she added.
One of the housing projects is the Harper Apartments in Moorestown. Pennrose LLC plans to build a 75-unit residential complex at 307 Harper Drive, near the intersection of East Gate Drive in Moorestown. The company will receive a zero-interest, $550,000-loan with a 20-year term to help with construction costs on the empty land behind Lincoln Technical Institute.
“The $550,000 loan from Burlington County will be used to pay for construction costs,” Pennrose Regional Vice President Jacob Fisher said. “In a climate where there are scarce resources available to build affordable housing and rising development costs, this loan from the county is critical in ensuring we have the financing in place to build high-quality housing, complete with on-site amenities and services for our future residents in Moorestown.
“Affordable housing, by nature, cannot support conventional mortgage financing to the same degree as market rate housing,” he added, “so Pennrose relies upon funding from municipal and state agencies to bring our projects to fruition. We are very appreciative of the county for awarding us this much-needed funding for Harper Apartments.”
Fisher also offered a partial timeline on the project.
“We are expecting to close on construction financing and break ground in Q3 2023, and complete the work and begin leasing units before the end of 2024,” he noted, adding that the building will contain 15 one-bedroom units, 41 two-bedroom units and 19 three-bedroom units.
“The rents will vary by income and will be set based on HUD’s income limits for Burlington County at the time of lease up,” Fisher added, “but based on the 2022 rent levels, rents for one-bedroom units will range $395 to $1,127, two-bedroom range from $474 to $1,352, and three-bedroom range $548 to $1,562.”
As for the need for housing throughout the Delaware Valley, Fisher explained, “There’s a critical need for housing at all income levels. The need is particularly acute for affordable housing.
Providing affordable housing allows the people that work in and serve these communities through all kinds of jobs, from service workers to some public employees, to live in these communities.
Fisher noted that he is appreciative of the support of county government officials.
“Moorestown Township has been supportive of the project, as it is part of their Fair Share housing plan,” he pointed out. “Their support has meant that they have worked closely with us to provide us what we have needed on the municipal front to secure the site and necessary financing for the property.
“We would not have been able to move this project forward without the support we have received from the township and county commissioners.”
Commissioners also approved loans for two other projects, with funding from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of the HOME Investment Partnership Program. That program provides counties with block grants to assist in the development of affordable housing, county spokesperson David Levinsky said.
Diocesan Housing Service Corporation was approved for a $250,000 loan to partially fund construction costs for a segment of the 72-unit project at 301 Davenport Avenue, known as Davenport Village.
Community Investment Strategies Inc. was approved to receive a $550,000 loan to help fund construction costs for part of an 84-unit project at John F. Kennedy Way and Salem Road in Burlington Township, known as The Place at Burlington.
“All three loans will be for an initial term of 20 years and will carry zero interest,” Levinsky said.
“Affordability is one of Burlington County’s greatest assets, but we recognize there are many residents facing housing hardship and pressure due to rising rents and soaring home prices,” Hopson said. “This is unacceptable and can destabilize communities.
“That’s why our board is committed to assisting nonprofits (to) find the financial resources needed to get shovels in the ground and much-needed affordable units built.”