By Ron Leir
A ceremonial groundbreaking was held nearly five months ago. Hopes were high that now, after two years of waiting and planning, the Hudson County chapter of Habit for Humanity International was ready to move forward with its first project in Kearny.
Occupancy was projected for mid-September.
And then … nothing further happened.
The project actually took two steps backward: First, the chapter’s co-director Greg Strid resigned for personal reasons, thereby placing oversight responsibility on the remaining co-director Tom Bruning. Then, the project’s construction manager David Tillou became ill and couldn’t work.
Now, however, Bruning told The Observer, the project is ready to take the next great leap ahead, following the May demolition of the old county TB clinic building at 41 Kearny Ave., the targeted site for a three-unit, three-floor residential condominium.
“We’ve sent a [construction] schedule to the county,” Bruning said. “We should be putting in the foundation and frame by mid-December. Then we’ll be closed in for the winter and, hopefully, we’ll finish [with utilities and interior work] by March.”
Habitat still plans to install one disabled-access two-bedroom apartment on the first floor and two three-bedroom flats, one on the second floor and another on the third floor.
Habitat has been allocated $350,000 by the Hudson County HOMES home ownership assistance program, to be supplemented by $120,000 from the Hudson County chapter of Habitat, for the project, Bruning said.
Asked whether the delay on the job could end up pushing costs for construction materials above the already tight project budget, Bruning said that the reverse was more likely. “Prices are down because of the slump in stock since [Superstorm] Sandy,” he said, “so the project will actually be less expensive.”
Bruning said Habitat will begin soliciting applications from prospective buyers after New Year’s.
How much the apartments will sell for isn’t yet fixed, Bruning said. Buyers will also be responsible for payment of municipal taxes and condominium fees, he said.
Habitat hopes to have completed vetting the applicants by March so they can expeditiously move into the new units, Bruning said. “The criteria here is whether they can afford it, do they qualify income-wise; do they satisfy the need criteria: are they currently living in sub-standard housing or overcrowding conditions? Also, they must be first-time homebuyers and Hudson County residents.”
Buyers will get an interest- free mortgage loan, repayable over 30 years.
Buyers’ household income must be less than 80% of the regional median family income level as fixed by the U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development; the buyers must have a good credit rating; and they must provide volunteer service to Habitat during construction.
The county deeded over the property a token $1 conditional on Habitat, a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian ministry advocating for “decent, safe and affordable housing,” building such a home on the site.
Once the heavy construction aspects of the project are done, Habitat will seek out community volunteers – along with the apartment buyers – to help work on the interior of the building with the contractor.
Habitat previously held open houses in the Kearny community to enlighten area residents about the process.
The Kearny Ave. residence will be the first project in West Hudson for Habitat’s Hudson County chapter. It previously built two single-family homes on Ocean Ave. in Jersey City. The chapter is also working on “moderate-scale” projects to repair homes in the area damaged by Sandy.