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Senior housing project advancing

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HARRISON – 

The 15-unit, 3-story apartment building billed as affordable rental housing for senior citizens – the first such development for Harrison – is taking shape on Harrison Ave., just east of the Harrison Gardens public housing complex.

Last week, after several workers secured the boxed modular apartments with ropes, a crane lifted sections of the modulars from the bed of a tractor-trailer truck into place at the construction site.

As a precaution, Harrison police officers halted east and westbound traffic on a section of Harrison Ave. as the crane operator performed his job. The Domus Corp., the construction arm of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark, has been contracted for the project. Del-Sano Contracting Corp. of Union, which has previously built seven affordable senior buildings for Domus, is handling this project.

Last fall, Domus CEO John Westervelt had projected that the building would be completed by fall 2014 and would be ready for occupancy by December 2014 or early 2015 and it now appears that schedule will be met.

Westervelt said that the apartments – all 650 square feet one-bedrooms – will be “marketed and advertised in local and regional newspapers, as well as local senior centers and service providers.”

Federal regulations mandate that, “units must also be posted on the state’s Housing Resource Center website” and that “a lottery will be used” to help pick the tenants, who must be 62 and older and meet income requirements to qualify for consideration, he said.

Apartment rental applications haven’t yet been processed.

Because federal and state funding is involved, the apartments cannot be restricted only to Harrison residents.

The $3.7 million project has generated some controversy because $1.8 million of the total is drawn from the state’s Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding pot, designed as relief from the ravages of Superstorm Sandy in 2012. While Sandy did have some impact on Harrison, the proportion of any displaced residents pales in comparison to areas like the Jersey Shore.

Domus, which is also using $1.4 million in county HOME funds and $509,000 in Affordable Housing Trust funds from Harrison for the project, pursued the Disaster Recover money when it became available in 2013 after having failed previously to secure a Federal Home Loan Bank grant and tax credits, according to Westervelt.

As to the projected rentals, Domus says that 12 of the apartments will likely go for $705 per month while three will probably be priced at $560 per month, keyed to income guidelines.

Westervelt said Domus “is pursuing [additional affordable senior projects] in Bergen and Union counties but no additional projects in the West Hudson area at the moment.” However, Harrison Mayor James Fife said the town is exploring the possibility of acquiring several privately-owned parcels – which he declined to identify – with an eye to securing more public housing sites.

– Ron Leir 

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