Seeking to protect some of the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund dollars, the City Council is expected to introduce an ordinance that would designate more than $1 million to the Windmill Alliance project.
City Planner John Fussa said that by dedicating the funds to a specific project, the city hopes to avoid losing it all to a proposal by Gov. Christopher Christie to take unspent funds from municipal coffers – a move similar to one Christie made two years ago when the state seized revenues generated from the Urban Enterprise Zones.
Developers under the state’s Affordable Housing and Fair Use laws must contribute to a fund for affordable housing or include affordable housing units in their projects. Funds gathered in this way allow the municipalities to fund construction of new affordable housing units or renovate existing ones.
Fussa said Windmill Alliance, based in Bayonne, has a viable affordable housing component to a project it is working on, although he said that the project is still in the early stages. It would require the Windmill Alliance to come up with other funding, such as from state or federal grants.
The state’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund is funded through development fees and is designed to help municipalities like Bayonne meet their state obligation to create residences for those with low or moderate incomes. Some cities expended their share of these funds generated prior to 2008 but many did not. State law requires funds to be used within four years.
Towns have until July 17 to commit their share of the almost $170 billion fund or the state plans to take over the money, with Christie seeking to use it for housing-related spending within the general fund.
Fussa said this is not certain that the funds will be taken, but the city wants to commit the funding to a project anyway.
But the city still has several hurdles to jump over, including state approval of the use of the money, Fussa said.
The Windmill Alliance started a program started several years ago to upgrade and centralize its facilities, part of a scaled-down plan that would bring a number of its current operations into a central location and provide more room for its ongoing programs.
“So this is not something that we will see immediately.” – John Fussa
The program, started in the mid-1980s, was designed to find a way to fulfill the Trinity Episcopal Church’s mission to help the community.
The Windmill Alliance offers three basic programs: an adult daycare program, its H.I.G.H.W.A.Y.S. program, and a residential housing program. The Windmill Residence’s supervised apartments program provides housing for about 15 individuals currently.
Windmill has been working toward consolidating some of its services at a central location, especially those involving its daycare program, its thrift shop and its community hall. For years, the program has used an old rectory for some of its activities, but that was knocked down last fall, and is to be replaced with a one-story building where they can locate other aspects of the program currently located in other parts of Bayonne.
Through what is being called the “Miracle on Fifth Street Capital Campaign,” the program is hoping to raise $1.3 million for the building’s construction.
When completed, the Alliance hopes to have state of the art facilities that will include a new community center and parish hall, and will allow them to relocate their current H.I.G.H.W.A.Y.S. facility – currently five blocks away – on the same site.
Windmill’s affordable housing component, however, has yet to be reviewed by either the local Zoning or Planning Boards.
“So this is not something that we will see immediately,” Fussa said. “And Windmill will have to get our funding sources.”