FLEMINGTON, N.J.The rolling farmland a few miles from the Delaware River is so prized by wealthy second-home buyers that the average price of a house here is now $400,000. As land costs swell and resistance to almost any development stiffens, it’s become increasingly difficult to build affordable housing.

But when local officials partner with experienced developers, it’s not impossible. This December the nonprofit Hunterdon County Housing Corp. (HCHC) and Pennrose Properties, Inc., based in Philadelphia, put the finishing touches on their Herman E. Kapp Senior Residences here.

The project is built on the site of an old county garage on the corner of Church and Broad streets between Flemington’s busy, historic downtown and the mass of strip malls crowded near Highway 202.

“It was depressing,” said Mary M. Johannese of the old, environment-ally contaminated garage. Johannese is a principal with Kitchen & Associates, in Collingswood, N.J., the project’s architects. “Anything would be an improvement.”

The Hunterdon County Board of Chosen Freeholders (the county government) decided to sell the property in 1999, but it took two years before it gave the go-ahead to HCHC.

Gaining the board’s approval was the hardest part of developing Kapp Senior Residences, according to Joe Delaney, HCHC executive director. Eventually HCHC worked out a plan for a comprehensive cleanup of the site that eased the Freeholders’ concerns about contamination.

But once the Freeholders agreed to the project, the other approvals came easily. The Flemington Borough Planning Board took only a few months to approve the development plans. Local officials also arranged for the bus line to stop at the project’s main door. When the developers wanted to build just one parking space for each apartment, instead of the two spaces required by local ordinance, officials let the developers build even fewer: just 40 spaces for 60 apartments, on the grounds that some of the seniors might not own cars.

“It would have been much harder had we not had constant support,” Johannese said.

In return, HCHC and Pennrose Properties put up a very attractive building. The gabled roof of the three-story brick structure echoes the architecture of the historic downtown, just a block away. “We wanted it to look like it belonged here,” Johannese said.

The complex includes 51 one-bedroom apartments and nine two-bedroom apartments. All of these are reserved for low-income seniors earning up to 60% of the area median income (AMI), so that the two-bedroom apartments will rent for just $717 a month. That’s much less than the area’s average rent of $1,200 for a two-bedroom apartment. “These people don’t have huge pensions – $1,200 is pretty steep,” said Bonnie Graham, spokesperson for HCHC.

The $8.9 million project received financing from a variety of sources, including $2 million from the Department of Community Affairs’ Balanced Housing Program. The New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency supplied two loans totaling $3.1 million backed by tax-exempt bonds, and unnamed outside investors provided $2.3 million in 4% tax credit equity. The Federal Home Loan Bank of New York’s Affordable Housing Program provided $300,000 in soft financing through member Peapack-Gladstone Bank. And the development team deferred more than $423,000 in fees.n


Herman E. Kapp Senior Residences in Flemington, N.J., is built on the site of an old county garage.