Jersey City Affordable Housing Group Celebrates ‘First New Construction on Monticello Avenue in Decades’

The Jersey City Episcopal Community Development Corporation (JCECDC) will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony tomorrow morning for what it is heralding as “the first new construction on Monticello Avenue in decades,” a seven-unit affordable condo development with ground-floor retail space.

The project, located where two formerly vacant sites used to sit at 167-169 Monticello Ave., cost JCECDC more than $2.1 million to build, but the group received a number of grants and investments to cover the costs. And despite the economic crisis, still-high local unemployment numbers and tighter lending practices from mortgage companies, JCECDC was able to pre-sell all seven condo units, which went for $95,000 (the three one-bedroom units) and $125,000 (the four two-bedroom units).

‚ÄúThis project posed several challenges due to local market dynamics for commercial construction, fluctuations in the national economy and more stringent mortgage lending practices for our buyers,” JCECDC real estate director John Restrepo says. “However, we were able to persevere and pre-sell all seven units, and are negotiating the commercial lease for a December 1 occupancy by the tenant.”

The ground-floor commercial space will most likely be the home of a new Bergen Communities United job center run by the local nonprofit WomenRising.

In addition to money from the Jersey City Division of Community Development’s HOME Program ($506,000), the Jersey City Affordable Housing Trust Fund ($451,000) and New Jersey Community Capital ($755,000), the Monticello Avenue project received hundreds of thousands in private investment from the PSE&G Foundation, PNC Bank and Blue Cross/Blue Shield, via the state Department of Community Affairs’ Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit program (NRTC), which offers businesses a 100 percent tax credit for investing in the revitalization of low-and moderate-income neighborhoods. The JCECDC executive director Carol Mori says the group will pursue similar financing in future projects.

“We are committed to this neighborhood and look forward to duplicating this effort, including raising additional investment for NRTC activities from local corporations for Monticello Avenue and other places like MLK Drive,” she says.

Like much of the recent affordable-housing construction in Jersey City, the building itself was constructed with environmentally friend materials, and it has attained a LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Building Council.

Housing and neighborhood advocates all hope that this development can anchor the “ongoing revitalization of Monticello Avenue,” as Mayor Jerramiah Healy says.

“With partnerships such as this, and with Main Street Monticello, we have seen a transformation take place that we hope to replicate in other areas of the city,” he adds.

Restrepo points out that this project is proof that high-quality housing can be accessible to Jersey City residents of all stripes.

“This project is located within five blocks of the Beacon luxury development,” he notes, “helping provide folks with more affordable options at comparable quality.”

Jon Whiten

co-founded the Jersey City Independent. He is currently the Deputy Director of New Jersey Policy Perspective.

  • moosamus

    I’m waiting for greasy palms, sweetheart deals, and the myriad of pitfalls that seem to plague most development projects like this, but i’m not sure I see them. The state-backed tax credit corporate funding model seems to have worked this round for them, though I have no idea if the community capital sources are renewable. I’ve also heard a bit about JCECDC, but don’t know their history much.

    Do I have fairy dust in my eyes, or does this actually seem like reasonable development?

  • Jayson

    moosamus – I’m not sure what youre metric for success is. They paid $2.1M to profit $785K in property sales (plus the commercial lease). The corporations kicked in ~20% of the funding which is a 100% tax credit for them.

  • John

    @Jayson–The corporations get a $1-$1 credit for the amount contributed. They put in $300k so they get a $300k credit not a $1-$5 credit you referenced. Also, the $785k is not a profit, its the permanent source of financing towards covering the $2.1M total cost. The balance of costs were covered from the susbidy sources noted, including the credit. This is an affordable housing development and the metric may not be the profit, but the completion of this venture in a transitional market.

  • Jayson

    @John – Thanks for the clarification. My 20% sentence was ambiguous, I meant to write they put in 20% of the $2.1M. My question would be, since this is 100% paid for by taxpayers, what is the point in having the corporations be involved at all? The article’s statement that it is private investment, while technically factual, is questionable.

    Perhaps the gain is that the (nationwide) corporations are having a greater say in neighborhood revitalization?

  • Alb

    That’s a gorgeous area, and people ought to be thinking hard about how to help the people around there deal with gentrification.

  • John


    About 60% of the residential cost is subsidized through grants from HUD, the 40% from sales of the condos.. Involvement from corporations is very important, especially in Jersey City where we have some major companies. It generates additional resources for building in riskier markets where the market does not create the resources to cover the cost of building. Basically, corporations get to control where the tax dollars go. Instead of writing a check to Trenton and then Trenton determining where they use the tax dollars, with NRTC they can write a check to a local plan in Jersey City’s inner city neighborhoods. In this case, it was used to help cover the cost of the commercial space construction. Monticello Ave demands a $12 psf rent, this translates into $100k loan. The cost to build the commercial space was about $400k. They covered the gap. The commercial financing was key to make this project work since its a mixed use district. It helps generate interest which will hopefully bring more business.

  • moosamus

    @Jayson – I get what you’re saying, whereby it looks as if large companies are able to direct the path of redevelopment to some extent, by directing their private (yet ultimately credited) funding towards specific projects, which may or not have an agenda. With that said, it seems, at least upfront, that an organization like JCECDC would be the one to ultimately direct the project; whether that ends in pandering to the interests of an organization they know will fund a project is another question, sure, but having community grant money as a majority capital source should theoretically provide checks and balances against that. I don’t know if that’s really the case, particularly around here, but that’s how it could work.

    @John – thanks for specifics. Interesting to see how this comes together. From a lay perspective, it looks as if these funding sources would be inversely proportional, with corporate funding interest and community grant opportunities obviously varying by location. Simplified I’m sure, but striking the right balance between the two with a few carrots like LEED certified construction could make this formula replicable, if not necessarily ideal.