After more than a decade of planning, Haddonfield held a groundbreaking ceremony with the developer Community Investment Strategies (CIS) on Nov. 2 for the long-awaited affordable-housing project known as The Place at Haddonfield.
The 20-unit project will be built on the former Snowden Avenue parking lot by borough hall, where construction is expected to take 15 months. It will house 20 of the 28 affordable-housing units needed to satisfy the the third round requirements in the Fair Share Housing Act.
The other eight units will be elsewhere, with management by Triad Associates.
“I don’t think people understand, sometimes it’s easier to do a project with 100 units than 20,” said Christiana Foglio, CIS founder and CEO. “And I have to give the state a lot of credit for having a small program that helps municipalities for smaller projects that (have) their fair share need.”
She noted that other programs were put in place to fund projects with 35 to 50 units at minimum, so finding funding for something as small as 20 units proved a challenge. But the borough was awarded a $4.7-million grant in 2021 from the state’s Department of Community Affairs.
“That type of funding mechanism did not exist over the last many years, so I think we were one of the first, if not the first, round of funding for a project of this size,” noted Mayor Colleen Bianco Bezich. ” … I think that honestly was a big part of the holdup for prior administrations.”
She also commented on the acronym NIMBY, often heard from affordable-housing opponents and commonly known as Not In My Backyard.
“We still see that NIMBYism today,” the mayor noted. ” … There definitely is some feeling of the other or the bubble being burst when we welcome everyone into the community, but as the mayor and as leadership here, as commissioners, that’s the furthest thing from what we want to see in our community.”
Another challenge that delayed the housing project was the work of preserving history and the character of Haddonfield that had to be balanced with the the borough’s affordable-housing requirement.
Adam Gordon, executive director of the Fair Share Housing Center, shared how meaningful it was to see the project come to fruition after working on it for 15 years.
“This really is what the Mount Laurel Doctrine is all about, and this is particularly personal for us,” Gordon noted, referring to the first, historic affordable-housing legislation in the state. ” … This is where our work all started, and Haddonfield is a wonderful town.”
He cited the borough’s schools, downtown and proximity to the PATCO High Speedline and other transportation.
“That is exactly where we want to see more affordable housing being built,” he stated.
Speakers at the groundbreaking also reflected on how the housing project is one the late Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver would have been proud of.
Foglio said CIS will begin its application process about six months before construction on the project is complete. The Place at Haddonfield will serve households earning 60% of the area median income or less, with at least half of the units for households earning 50% of that income or less, and 13% earning 30% of that income, according to a press release.
The 20 units will consist of four one-bedroom, 10 two-bedroom and six three-bedroom apartment homes, each with a private entrance.
“Changing what was once a not so nice parking lot into some incredible housing for community members is a win, I think,” said Bianco Bezcih. “For everybody.”