Projects on the horizon

Press of Atlantic City

“The state has a long-standing lack of affordable housing for its poorest residents. That’s been the subject of a decades-long fight in which the courts have repeatedly tried to get state and local governments to comply with requirements to provide or even allow sufficient affordable housing.

Part of a possible solution to this intractable problem is suggested by the wave of affordable housing projects under development in Atlantic and Cape May counties.

One just opened last week, the 100-unit Rittenberg Manor in Egg Harbor City for income-qualified senior citizens. Four-fifths of the units already have been taken, by residents who can make no more than 60 percent of the Atlantic County median income, which works out to just $28,800 for one person and $32,880 for two.

The project, by Conifer Realty, provides affordable housing with a reasonable amount of government support and a judicious respect for market conditions. After 30 years, Conifer will own the apartment complex outright and be free to charge market rates.

Similar projects are in the works in Middle Township, Pleasantville and Atlantic City, and planned for Egg Harbor Township as well. Many of the units aren’t restricted to seniors, but available to lower-income families.

That’s a good start, but in light of a major recent poverty study by Harvard University economists, maybe such affordable housing projects should be part of the answer in affluent communities too.

The Equality of Opportunity Project study found that if poor children grow up not segregated with other poor children but in more economically and racially integrated communities, their adult income prospects are much better.

“On average, exposure to areas where permanent residents have better outcomes raises the expected outcomes of the children that move there,” the researchers said.

So maybe the smart growth Ocean City should be looking for is higher-density affordable housing. That would bolster the year-round population and strengthen the city’s culture by making it more diverse.

Perhaps all of the municipalities that have fashioned themselves as enclaves of the middle and upper classes should do the same. Wouldn’t that benefit society all around?”