TRENTON, N.J. - The New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) today announced it received national awards from the Urban Land Institute and the National Council of State Housing Agencies for the CHOICES in Homeownership Program (CHOICE), which finances the development of newly constructed and substantially rehabilitated for sale housing in emerging markets in older urban centers throughout New Jersey.
"The CHOICE program is truly a hallmark of achievement for the HMFA, which is committed to providing affordable homeownership opportunities for lower income, working families," said New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Richard E. Constable, III, who is Chair of the HMFA. "To date, the program has funded more than 4,000 housing units. The sheer number of homes produced statewide qualifies as a success story, not just for bolstering homeownership, but also for revitalizing communities and enhancing the economic vitality of local housing markets."
The HMFA accepted the 2012 Robert C. Larson Workforce Housing Public Policy Award from the Urban Land Institute on October 19 and the 2012 Award for Program Excellence in Homeownership from the National Council of State Housing Agencies on October 22.
The CHOICES in Homeownership Program features below-market interest rate construction loans and construction subsidy funding for developers, as well as favorable end loan financing for eligible homebuyers. Under the program, the HMFA and a private lender of the developer s choosing each provide 50 percent of the project financing, and the HMFA provides subsidy dollars needed to cover the gap between the development costs and the sales price.
The program was launched in 1996 to meet the need for affordable workforce homeownership opportunities in New Jersey's older urban centers, specifically places where the cost to build housing is more expensive than that for which it can be sold. The ultimate goal of the program is to stimulate mixed-income, for-sale housing production in emerging market neighborhoods and increase the number of new homes available for lower-income, working homebuyers.
The program originally was to fund the construction and/or rehabilitation of 1,500 homes. To date, the program has actually funded 4,015 housing units. Funding has been provided for 151 projects in 30 cities, with a concentration of projects in Camden, Newark, and Trenton. For example, in Newark, the CHOICE program has resulted in more than 1,000 new homeownership units being constructed in and around the Central Ward, an important piece of the city's urban revitalization efforts. In Trenton, more than 500 units have been developed in the Monument Crossing/Canal Banks area. Other cities, such as Franklin Township, Jersey City, New Brunswick, and Red Bank have also seen improvements in housing conditions for their workforce households and neighborhoods.
Overall, as a result of the CHOICE program, on average 260 units of affordable homeownership units are produced each year across the state.
"Homes that are built as a result of the CHOICE program are high quality housing in which anyone would be proud to live," said HMFA Executive Director Anthony L. Marchetta. "Most of the homebuyers are local and have strong family and work ties in the neighborhoods. These connections are enhanced through sustainable homeownership opportunities. These projects have also generated thousands of construction jobs throughout the state."
The Robert C. Larson Award from the Urban Land Institute recognizes exemplary state and local program policies and practices that support the production, rehabilitation or preservation of workforce housing. As a winner, HMFA will be featured in a special case study on ULI.org, the Urban Land Institute s website, for people who want to learn more about the CHOICE program.
The Urban Land Institute is an organization with 30,000 members worldwide whose mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide by bringing together leaders from across the fields of real estate and land use policy to exchange best practices and serve community needs.
The 2012 Award for Program Excellence in Homeownership from the National Council of State Housing Agencies recognizes innovative programs that respond to an important state housing need, demonstrate measurable benefits to the targeted demographic, and have a proven track record of success.
The National Council of State Housing Agencies is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization created by the nation s state Housing Finance Agencies to coordinate their federal advocacy efforts for affordable housing before Congress, the Administration, and several federal agencies concerned with housing, including the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, and Treasury.
The HMFA is dedicated to increasing the availability and accessibility of affordable housing throughout New Jersey. Its financing programs support traditional affordable rental and for-sale housing developments, first-time and urban homebuyers, citizens in senior and assisted living facilities, and residents with special needs. HMFA also administers the New Jersey Housing Resource Center, an online searchable registry of affordable and accessible housing located throughout New Jersey.
For more information on the CHOICES in Homeownership Program, please visit http://www.state.nj.us/dca/hmfa/developers/choice/.