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Cherry Hill is an edge city . One of the 5 defining characteristics of edge cities is jobs outnumbering bedrooms within the community . With this designation, Cherry Hill has an opportunity to grow its economy by having the city’s workers also live within the township. In order to realize this opportunity, Cherry Hill has a responsibility to provide housing at an affordable rate for the working class and working poor. Through a public entity facilitating private partnerships, Cherry Hill can develop housing solutions that streamline processes and maintain compliance.
Currently, Cherry Hill has 797 “affordable housing units”, including Section 8, Low-Income Housing Tax Credit eligible properties, and the like. At the present time, there are 4 eligible properties on the market for purchase and 1 rental unit available. In order to use a Section 8 voucher for homebuying purposes however, a recipient must go through the New Jersey Department of Consumer Affairs. There is no protocol or system in place for handling these claims or any other Section 8 voucher related questions or concerns and the township level.
In Cherry Hill, housing management is currently part of the office of community development. This office has a single housing director who is responsible for all community development grants, housing rehabilitation, and rental inspections, as well as affordable and moderately priced housing. Under this system, affordable housing and public housing issues are not receiving adequate attention, and some issues have slipped through the cracks.
The township currently claims to set aside 20% of the units in each planned housing development for affordable housing. However, the luxury housing development at Garden State Park opened in 2012 without any units being designated for affordable housing. The developers were required to work with the township on zoning, but it seems they did not work with the housing office with regard to plans for affordable housing and their required set-asides. With the climate surrounding affordable housing in Cherry Hill rapidly evolving, the processes at the township level must change.
Historically, Cherry Hill has fought to prevent enforcement of the Mount Laurel Doctrine, which dictates a low-income housing allowance with the development of each new residential community. In 2015, two settlements were reached which require Cherry Hill to comply with the Mount Laurel rulings. Under the settlement, Cherry Hill must create or allow for 813 new low-income housing units between now and 2026. While the township is not solely responsible for the physical construction of these units, it is responsible for ensuring compliance with the ruling. In order to best achieve total legal compliance, Cherry Hill should create a Public Housing Agency within the local government that will be responsible for coordinating these projects.
A Public Housing Agency (PHA) can act under the auspices of the township’s government to develop some housing projects, designate township-owned land for residential development, and collaborate with private entities to ensure compliance with the terms of the settlement. Private groups like Cherry Hill Land Associates (CHLA) would, through this partnership, be able to begin construction and development on the land they own along Marlton Pike (NJ-70) that has already been designated for revitalization and improvement by the township. CHLA’s parent company, First Montgomery Group, has successfully developed numerous apartment complexes in the region, all designed with affordable housing in mind, primarily through partnerships with local governments.
The key to enhancing economic development with these low-income housing projects is to have them interspersed among market-rate properties. In the communities that CHLA would develop, 85% of the units would be rented at market-rate, with the remainder being designated as low-income housing. CHLA has already established some of its plans for land development, but partnership with Cherry Hill’s new PHA would ease the processes, including streamlining the zoning process. Additionally, a PHA would be able to provide assistance to residents with housing vouchers, including converting rental vouchers to homeownership vouchers, thereby further streamlining processes.
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