The NJDH Community Forum on January 4, 2024 was at St Peter the Apostle Church a Rutgers University associated space. About 30 people attended as well as members of the NJDH board and representatives from Triple C Housing (TCH). Minutes were taken by Danielle Lieberman. Danielle very kindly donated her time as the DeafBlind person she was interpret didn’t attend. NJDH is very appreciative of the skills and dedication of ASL and DeafBlind interpreters to NJDH and the community.
The mission of NJDH: Affordable, supportive housing in New Jersey designed for those who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, DeafBlind and Late Deafened. This mission statement is based on many interactions with the Deaf community and about a thousand surveys. The Community Forum gave an update on activities and progress. There are four projects that NJDH is actively working on towards its mission of supportive housing in NJ. These projects were discussed and representatives from TCH presented their two proposed projects for the Deaf community and requested input from the audience. Any building project or even renovation project in NJ is a slow and complex process due to many federal, state and local regulations and the costs of property and development in NJ.
NJDH is actively working with the state of NJ to renovate a vacant dormitory at Marie Katzenbach School into senior apartments. NJDH has a developer with experience in supportive housing (TCH) that is ready to obtain grants and start the renovations needed for this approximately $3 million project. NJDH has reached out to state senators who have been very helpful in moving the process forward, but it is still a long difficult process. State Senator Bucco has been very helpful. NJDH has been already actively working with the state for 4 years. NJDH is very frustrated that working with the state government is so slow and complex. Other states such as Wisconsin, Arizona and New Mexico also needed a long time to bring the housing from an idea to reality. Since the state of NJ is so slow and frankly not cooperative, NJDH agreed to focus on other developers that want to work with NJDH and their mission,
In addition to the Marie Katzenbach project, NJDH is working with 2 developers, Cardinal Capital Management (CCM) and TCH, both have proven experience in building and managing supportive housing. NJDH recently reconnected with CCM after Covid and illness of the president of CCM. CCM and NJDH looked for quite a few years for suitable property in NJ.
CCM has purchased property in Flemington NJ and is planning for 20 to 25 low income rental apartments for the Deaf community in an 80 unit building. Flemington is ready to start but in December the town requested an additional environmental response. This is expected to take at least a half year to get approval. Until then, development cannot start. CCM has built supportive housing for the Deaf in Wisconsin and Arizona. These residences are about 80 units and have specialized equipment such as flashing alarms and communications. Both have active social programs and nearby transportation.
The second developer NJDH is working with is TCH. When the state of NJ approves the renovation at Marie Katzenbach School, TCH will obtain grants and work with builders to renovate the vacant Building 24 a former Boy’s dormitory. TCH also has 2 properties, Dunellen and Bayville, that will each have 8 units that will be designed for the Deaf community. The Community Forum was requested by TCH to get information from the Deaf community about the 2 properties.
Marcus Kellam from TCH explained that the two properties are only for low income and the Head of Household must be Deaf, DeafBlind or Hard of Hearing. Each county has specific income limits depending on size of the family. Individuals and families must earn less than 30% of the Area (County) Median Income to be eligible. The flyers for each property has these incomes listed. Marcus collected information on people who are interested in these properties. Each property will have 8 units with a common area for socializing. Additional meetings will include NJDH, TCH, people interested in these locations and an architect. It’s important the area is Deaf friendly.
Marcus Kellam from TCH and Kathy Kady Hopkins and Lauren Lercher from NJDH took questions from the audience about the locations and future plans. TCH has multiple low income properties already in NJ. TCH uses funding from the National Housing Trust Fund. Funding is available for Special Needs populations with disabilities that include Deaf under physical disabilities. The architect will assure the building is up to code and appropriate alarms for the Deaf are included. Emotional support animals and guide dogs are allowed. DeafBlind people should be on the first floor and buildings will have elevators. Background checks for tenants will be done but TCH works with people of all backgrounds. It’s important not to have an eviction. Someone asked if TCH helps with selling a home to move into a rental unit. TCH does not provide this help. The CCM Flemington project will have market rate as well as low income units. Accessibility, public transportation and nearby stores, hospital etc. are important. NJDH is hoping to buy a van to be used for transportation. A question was asked if these properties can be used as community centers. Possibly the larger CCM property might have this, the smaller properties might have a community center located next to the 8 units dedicated for the Deaf Community.
The Dunellen and Bayville properties are very large and will need to be subdivided and obtain municipal approval. TCH will work with the NJ Department of Community Affairs (DCA) and NJ Mortgage Housing Financing. After municipal zoning approval, construction will take 12 to 16 months. TCH is also looking to purchase existing buildings or do renovations.
NJDH is planning to restart fundraising once a property has received approval to start. Right now there are 4 properties in various stages of obtaining approvals.
- Building 24 at Marie Katzenbach School in Ewing
- CCM and Flemington
- TCH and Dunellen
- TCH and Bayville
NJDH will not use money from fundraising for construction. The developers will get funding from grants. NJDH has always intended to use the money from fundraising that will enhance and benefit the residents such as a big screen TV, furniture for common areas or a van. NJDH wants assurance that a property is secured and ready to start construction before doing more fundraising. The Deaf community has told NJDH they want assurances that money from fundraisers will be used for improving the lives of residents who will live in NJ Deaf housing.
NJDH will be planning more Community Forums to continue discussions of these exciting opportunities and having another sensational Fashion Show. Please continue to be patient! NJ will get Affordable, supportive housing in New Jersey designed for those who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, DeafBlind and Late Deafened.