Weehawken continues to look for opportunities to expand its workforce housing.
Mayor Richard Turner told the Hudson Reporter that the housing is intended for any employee of the township amid increasing local living costs.
“As prices go up, a lot of the employees, especially the new employees, it could be the police or anybody that works for the town, the problem is they can’t afford to stay starting out with a job,” Turner said.
Turner said that ensuring that township employees live in the municipality is important.
“We’re trying to provide workforce housing because, once the employees move away, it’s very difficult on emergencies to get them back in, given the distances and whatever else may happen,” Turner said. “It’s always better when your employees are local. So we’re trying to keep them as local as possible.”
This is especially true when emergencies and things of that nature arise in Weehawken.
“If we have an emergency, they’re readily available,” Turner said. “As I said, if they move five, ten, fifteen, twenty miles away, you never know what happens. There’s only a few ways in this county and a few ways out. And sometimes it’s difficult to get them back in an emergency given traffic patterns and everything. So we always really find it better that when an employee lives in town, it solves a lot of our problems, especially when we have emergencies.”
So far, 28 workforce housing units and counting
Currently, Weehawken is home to 28 residential units that are for workforce housing. Turner said the township is ensuring that more added with new construction.
“A lot of the new buildings require a percentage of units for workforce housing,” Turner said.
According to Turner, there are 8 more units of workforce housing on the way. The township recently helped acquire a former bank property that will be converted to ground floor commercial with residential units already existing on the second and third floors.
“We just acquired eight on the former Wells Fargo Bank,” Turner said. “We made a joint purchase, and we’re making a condominium with them. Somebody will own the downstairs of the Wells Fargo, which has the units upstairs which we will control.”
Turner said the units are currently occupied, but will shift over time to workforce housing units for Weehawken employees.
“That will be through transition,” Turner said. “Obviously, there’s people living there now. So as they leave, we’ll make them available for employees. It can be employees of any walk of life.”
Turner reiterated the importance of projects like this to keep employees local despite the increasing cost of living.
“it’s a very difficult area,” Turner said. “If you move west of Route 495, it’s difficult to get back on many occasions.”
The hunt for workforce housing continues
And as recently as July, the Township Council adopted an ordinance authorizing the potential expansion of workforce housing, though the township is always searching.
“That ordinance had to do with a particular building,” Turner said. “But this is a program we want to expand. We have twenty eight units now, and we would like to do a few more. It keeps the employees in town, where they’re more readily available than they would be once they start moving away.”
In addition to the aforementioned eight units on the way above the former Wells Fargo Bank at 3522 Park Avenue, the township will continue to contemplate more workforce housing units as opportunities arise.
“We’ve got to wait for something that comes up for sale,” Turner said. “Then we’ll see whether it’s worth buying, like we did at the bank. When we do a new building, we require a set aside, but we don’t have that many new buildings planned.”
Turner said that Weehawken looks at properties when they are listed for sale, contemplating workforce housing.
“When a building comes up for sale, we do an analysis,” Turner said. “We see whether it’s worth our while to buy it or not, what kind of repairs have been made and whatever.”
The hunt continues for properties to convert to workforce housing in Weehawken. Turner concluded: “We’re always looking for opportunities to do that.”
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at email@example.com.