Posts Tagged ‘housing’

Questions for the Mayor’s transition committee on housing

The Mayor’s transition committee is holding a citizen forum on Oct. 16.   I can’t seem to find out what plan it is they want the public to hear about.  Rather it sounds like its a forum to get input on “what should go into a plan”.

Listening to random citizens pretty much guarantees you’ll get random comments.   That’s not a great way to build a plan

I would have gone in with something like the following.

The Mayor’s Goals

  • Trenton has a goal of building or significantly rehabbing 1000 homes in 1000 days.
  • Today we have a total  27,500 residences in Trenton.   10,000 are owner occupied and 17,500 are rentals.
  • Our goal is to increases this number to 28,500 residences where 11,000 are owner occupied and 17,500 are rentals

Additionally we have a goal of increasing Trenton’s tax base by $200,000,000.  That’s an average of $200,000 per home.  This is higher than Trenton’s current average but significantly lower than the average home price for Mercer County.

To this end, the City of Trenton will:

  • Make available Trenton’s current inventory of city owned homes,
  • Provide assistance in clearing title to abandoned homes and property currently with liens,
  • Expedite zoning, permit and inspections approvals through a special process set up to accomplish this goal
  • Make available subsidies of 10% of the value of a project over $100,000
  • Offer a 5 year tax abatement

The City of Trenton’s  1000 Home jump start program is seeking

  • Residential housing developers seeking to build market rate housing
  • Bank qualified Individual homeowners seeking to build or buy a home
  • Architects, General Contractors and Contractors seeking to work with buyers and developers in Trenton

The ask for the public should be

  • Are there any questions?
  • How can they help promote the plan? (through social media,  marketing program,  bounties)
  • Would a neighborhood like to become part of a neighborhood enhancement program to make itself more attractive for buyers in this program (clean-ups, marketing, street repair, aggressive crime enforcement, identification of suitable properties)

A Plan for Addressing Vacant / Abandoned Properties in Trenton

The fundamental reason Trenton has abandoned / vacant properties in Trenton is that it costs more to rehab a property than it would be worth once completed.   We can help developers and potential homeowners by lowering their financial cost, establishing a more fluid market for vacant / abandoned properties and creating a marketing message that includes more people who might be interested in living in Trenton.

I estimate the number of abandoned / vacant properties to be over 3,300.

In general Trenton will have to attack the problem of revitalization of abandoned / vacant properties one neighborhood at a time starting with downtown.   We don’t have the resources, yet, to address the entire city at once.

Our efforts will address both city owned and privately owned abandoned, vacant and underused properties.   For city owned property our goal will be to get them on the tax rolls, not make money from selling them.

1) Lower the cost of revitalization

Enhance our tax and subsidy package for redevelopment

  • A standardized Revenue PILOT for large projects reduces risk for developers and provides transparency for all taxpayers into how the city works with large developers
  • A graduated abatement on improvements of up to 15 years.  This includes the existing 5 year abatement plus a new abatement in redevelopment areas as per NJ law
  • We will add an additional subsidy on improvements in the downtown district

Reduce risk for redevelopers by

  • Improving the public safety situation while development is going on
  • Increasing code enforcement on adjacent buildings in focus areas

Launch Homesteading in a few neighborhoods

  • Properties will be sold to homeowners for $1
  • Abatement Programs will apply
  • Buyers will be matched with local contractors and architects where needed
  • Neighborhoods will apply to participate and will be required to show support

Demolition: where a buyer wants it and our professionals agree it’s appropriate, we will sell a property to a developer, cleared.

2) Establish a more fluid market.

Use the NJ Abandoned Properties Act in Trenton for the first time.  It’s been used now in Jersey City

Track all vacant properties with help from

  • Efforts from non-profits like Isles, TCCA
  • Expanded responsibilities in our economic development and inspections department to track and identify vacant properties (our proposed budget will include funding for this)
  • Making a city-wide ticketing system available that allows residents to report abandoned properties

Outside Legal help on Closings to speed up a process that has been woefully slow and disorganized

4 hour inspections appointments instead of the current practice of allowing 22 days to review simple plans

3) Create demand by

Establishing a public / private marketing entity “Trenton Sells” co-founded with realtors and developers. This group will be the conduit for our marketing efforts.  It will:

  • Publish a web site and newsletter
  • Target Millennials along the Northeast corridor
  • Publish our vacant property inventory on the web site
  • Hold regular Open houses for the city

Matching up homebuyers with architects and contractors.   We can make renovation easier for buyers buy helping them find local development help that knows how to work in Trenton

Developing a neighborhood level branding plan. Neighborhoods will have the opportunity to sell their neighborhoods by establishing the right message. Hopefully the Master Plan includes this work

Pitching to New Urbanist Developers. There are developers who specialize in building urban neighborhoods.  They are part of a large and growing national trend.  A revitalization-minded Economic Development department will seek out these developers and invite them to Trenton.

Key Reorganization tactics

Reorganize inspections under the Economic Development Department. This will focus inspections on the job of meeting our goals

Set measurable goals that require us to put property back on the tax roles

  • Increase our ratables by 10%
  • Increase our population to 90,000
  • Track our progress on reducing abandoned properties

State regulatory Asks

The job of a Mayor is to make sure the State is working for us, not against us.  A Trenton Mayor should work with our legislative team and urban Mayors across the state to enact pro-redevelopment legislation.

Land Banks: Potential enhancements to our ability to use Land Banks beyond what is currently in the Abandoned Properties Act.  We want to provide mechanisms engage for-profit firms to help and to make sure our laws help us deal with quiet deeds and that they don’t prefer subsidized housing.

Land Value Tax: A two tier tax system can be used to make it harder to hold on to vacant land and profitable to develop it.  Land Value Tax legislation would provide a cleaner mechanism to encourage redevelopment than tax abatements as it would be available to all property owners.

Urban Income Tax Zone: Push to have Trenton become a test city for an urban income tax zone.  The maximum income tax bracket in Trenton would be set at 2% instead of 5% making it very attractive for higher income New Jerseyeans to move to Trenton.