Freedom Village at Toms River Provides 72 Affordable Rental Apartments for Working Families, 18 Set Aside for Individuals with Special Needs
TOMS RIVER, NJ - Demonstrating the Christie Administration's commitment to build back stronger after Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Charles A. Richman and New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) Executive Director Anthony L. Marchetta today joined Senate President Stephen Sweeney, federal, state and local officials, and Project Freedom, Inc. to celebrate the grand opening of Freedom Village at Toms River, a 72-unit affordable rental community for special needs residents and working families in Toms River, Ocean County. Also, on hand were representatives of the National Equity Fund, Bank of America, Federal Home Loan Bank, and Parents United for Special Needs Housing.
"Today, as we observe the third anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, I am very happy to officially open Ocean County's newest affordable apartment community, specifically designed for special needs residents, low and moderate income working families, and, of course, those impacted by Superstorm Sandy in Ocean County," said DCA Commissioner Richman, who also serves as Chairman of the HMFA. "Freedom Village is an all-inclusive housing community that blends the disabled with able-bodied tenants, as well as tenants raising children. This is truly an integrated community."
The HMFA awarded Freedom Village at Toms River approximately $3.2 million in federal Sandy Recovery funds through the Fund for Restoration of Multifamily Housing (FRM) and approximately $1.8 million through the Sandy Special Needs Housing Fund (SSNHF). The FRM program enables developers to secure zero-interest and low-interest loans to finance affordable housing developments in the nine counties most impacted by Sandy as determined by the federal government. The SSNHF program provides similar financial assistance to developers who are constructing permanent supportive rental housing units for special needs populations. HMFA also provided the project approximately $3.6 million in construction and permanent financing and awarded the extremely competitive 9% federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits, which has generated a total of approximately $11.8 million in private equity.
"This project will long serve Ocean County as a valuable social and economic asset," said HMFA Executive Director Marchetta. "We are very pleased to have provided Sandy recovery funds and the capital financing that enabled the development of this affordable housing complex, which is equipped with features and amenities important to families, individuals with special needs, and Sandy survivors."
Individuals who were displaced by Sandy and/or experienced major or severe damage from the storm were given priority during the first 90 days of leasing.
"We were living in Seaside Heights when Superstorm Sandy hit. We lost everything, I was 35 weeks pregnant, and we had to live in a motel," said Katie Hoffman, a resident of Freedom Village at Toms River. "About a month after the storm, we welcomed our beautiful baby boy named Alex into the world. When we were released from the hospital, we went back to the motel and stayed there for a long time. When the opportunity with Freedom Village came along, we are able to have a home again with our son."
"I was a Hurricane Sandy victim. It was a horrible experience, but I was eventually able to get back on my feet with the help of family and friends and the support system from the government," said Candace Baker, who is living at Freedom Village at Toms River with her young son. "I'm very happy and glad to have this opportunity to live in these beautiful homes and to have a chance to start fresh and build myself and my home back up again."
Literally a dream come true for a few tenacious parents of disabled adult children in Toms River, Freedom Village at Toms River is the cherished outcome of a broad base of community support. In a grass roots effort to find a way to create a safe barrier-free environment where their disabled adult children could live and thrive, these parents organized 10 years ago as Parents United for Special Needs Housing (PUSH). Working together over the last decade, PUSH and Project Freedom Inc. won municipal support from Toms River and a donation from the town of 10 acres set aside for the community.
The design approach used for Freedom Village incorporates a contemporary open living space that promotes ease of mobility for tenants who use a wheelchair while also creating a beautiful living space for those without a disability. The 72 family rental units are situated within six "L" shaped, two-story buildings that are each equipped with an elevator. One-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments are all wheelchair accessible and available to those earning less than 60 percent of the area median income. The developer Project Freedom, Inc., which is a non-profit organization that develops and operates barrier-free permanent supportive housing that enables individuals with disabilities to live independently, has provided a social service coordinator to facilitate supportive services to individuals with special needs and families.
All apartments are Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant and feature wider doors and hallways; open design kitchens with a generous amount of cabinetry and counter space; energy efficient appliances that meet accessibility standards; and bathrooms with roll-in showers. The units are equipped with central heating and air conditioning and wall-to-wall carpeting. The project's community center features a large multi-purpose room to comfortably accommodate meetings, social events and educational classes. Project Freedom offers a wide array of activities that include massage therapy, wheelchair yoga and an assortment of wellness programs.
Exterior space is also barrier-free, designed to eliminate all obstacles to independence while offering many opportunities to enjoy the fresh air and outdoors, including a gazebo with bench seating to promote socializing among residents.
In addition to providing affordable housing, Freedom Village at Toms River will continue to have a positive economic impact on Toms River and the greater Ocean County community. During construction, the $21.4 million project supported approximately 204 direct and indirect/induced full-time equivalent jobs, and approximately $1.2 million in state and local taxes. Now completed, the project will continue to add value to the community by providing approximately $3.8 million in ongoing economic output, 22 direct and indirect/induced full-time equivalent jobs and $214,434 in state and local taxes annually.
These Economic Impact Analysis figures were estimated using multipliers derived from a 2013 study entitled "Economic and Fiscal Impacts of the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency's Investment in Affordable Housing," conducted by HR&A Advisors, Inc., a real estate and economic development consulting firm.
Funding sources for the development of Freedom Village at Toms River also included the Federal Home Loan Bank, Toms River Affordable Housing Trust Funds, and a deferred developer fee.
Sandy-impacted residents can learn more about other affordable housing projects funded with Sandy recovery dollars by visiting the New Jersey Housing Resource Center at www.njhrc.gov. The database is free and easy to use. On the homepage, individuals can click on "Priority Housing for Sandy-Impacted Residents."
The page that opens will display a list of available housing opportunities throughout the nine counties the federal government determined were most impacted by Superstorm Sandy. The list includes such information as where projects are located, total number of housing units, contact information for the leasing office, website/phone number for people to submit applications, and date applications are being accepted. New information is being added regularly as it becomes available.
For more information on HMFA programs, please call 1-800-NJHOUSE or (609) 278-7400, or visit www.njhousing.gov