‘Make no mistake the need is great’

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Andrew Harrison/Hopewell Valley News Partnership celebrated with groundbreaking ceremony for apartment building that will house 26 affordable housing units on June 23.

Hopewell Parc residential development will provide 216 affordable housing units

A partnership between HomeFront, Homes by TLC, and Lennar celebrated the groundbreaking of a building complex that will house 26 affordable housing units for low-income and working families.

Construction for Lennar’s Hopewell Parc residential development on Scotch Road has been well underway for the first phase on 1,077 homes with 216 affordable housing units.

“We are thrilled that this new project in Hopewell Parc will become home to 26 families,” said Celia Bernstein, executive director of Homes by TLC, Inc, a Lawrence nonprofit, at the groundbreaking ceremony on June 23. She noted they have partnered with Lennar to purchase the building.

The three-story apartment building complex will have four one-bedroom units, 16 two-bedroom units, and six three-bedroom units.

“We are grateful to our partners at Lennar for sharing this opportunity and bringing the foundation walls up so soon,” Bernstein said.

For a family to afford a modest two-bedroom home in Mercer County they must earn an hourly wage of $33.50, far more than the states average wage of $24.40 or the current minimum wage of $14.13, according to this year’s annual Out of Reach report conducted by the National Low-income Housing Coalition.

“That means that at minimum wage an individual would need to work 95 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment at the fair market rent of $1,742,” Bernstein said. “In New Jersey, 36 percent of the residents rent to their homes.”

The Hopewell Parc residential development is the 23 affordable housing project for Homes by TLC. HomeFront, which is a Lawrence nonprofit with a mission to end homelessness and break the cycle of poverty, partners with Homes by TLC to develop housing for clients.

“Among the top 30 occupations in New Jersey, 24 of them pay medium wages less than the housing wages,” she said. “This includes the teacher assistants, nursing assistants, counting clerks, home health aides, truck drivers, security guards, laborers, field preparation workers, receptionist cashiers and others. Make no mistake the need is great.”

Those living in the 26 affordable units will pay no more than 30% of the income on rent, according to HomeFront.

“I mentioned the 38 families living in our shelter right now, but what you might not realize last month over 450 individual people called our hotline for families in Mercer County who are facing homelessness and facing eviction,” HomeFront CEO Sarah Steward said. “Four hundred fifty individual families.

“There are families right now this day who are living in motels here in our community who are self-paying to live in a motel here in this community, because there simple are not enough housing options for families that need them.

“That is why the partnership between Homes by TLC and HomeFront is so important. We know we will always work to alleviate that immediate need and help families develop the skills and resources,” Steward said. “But it is also about there being a home to move into when you reach that point.”

Hopewell Township Mayor Michael Ruger said he sees the groundbreaking as a step forward in ensuring that there is affordable housing in Hopewell Township.

“I firmly believe people who work in a community should have the opportunity to live in a community and the people who have lived here should have the opportunity to stay,” he said. “It is wrong to offer a young police officer a job and tell her she needs to commute a long distance in order to take the job, because there is no place she can afford to live in the community she protects.”

It is wrong to hire a teacher to educate our children and not give him an opportunity to become a part of the community because there is no place he can afford to live, and it is wrong to tell a retired couple that they have to move because there is no place they can afford to live, Ruger added.

“That is why affordable housing is necessary and that is why it is the right thing to do,” he said.

When Fair Share Housing released the nonprofit’s report on its work since 2015 on helping provide housing for low-income families, the Hopewell Parc building project was featured as one of the most important developments in all of New Jersey to come out of more than 22,000 affordable homes that have been created since that year, officials said.

“What is so important here is that this is an expression of so many people working together to make this possible today,” said Adam Gordon, executive director of Fair Share Housing.

“This is going to be model for other communities in New Jersey and the country for what we can do to help create those opportunities for people to live near where they work and kids to be able to go to the great schools in this town.”

Mitch Newman, director of Land Acquisition and Entitlements and senior vice president of Venture Operations with Lennar, said conversations had taken place over several years to have Homes by TLC and HomeFront take control over some units in Hopewell Township at Hopewell Parc.

“The theme is two words ‘What if?,” he said. “What if HomeFront, Hopewell Township, Mercer County, Lennar and Fair Share Housing worked together?

“What if we slugged through the New Jersey governmental approval process together and what if we all suffered through a few sleepless nights and stomach aches to get us to the finish line? This is what we can accomplish.”