Bayonne concludes absorption study, residential redevelopment likely to resume

The data found that new units have been occupied at a high rate, meaning more redevelopment can proceed

Bayonne officials have concluded the study on the status of redevelopments in the city, and the data clears the way for residential redevelopment to resume.

Most major residential redevelopment was paused by Mayor James Davis amid the 2022 May non-partisan municipal election until a study could be completed to determine if new redevelopments were being occupied or not.

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Despite the pause, a number of residential redevelopment received planning approvals anyway, including the 18-story Silk Lofts tower that seemingly prompted the halt. City officials said this was an exception because the developers had already gotten planning approval and were midway through the process and could not be stopped.

However, new residential redevelopment without prior approval was halted.

The newly sworn-in City Council passed a resolution in July authorizing the study. According to the resolution, the absorption study would look at the total number of new residential dwelling units and multiple dwelling developments built in the city of Bayonne after January 1, 2015, the number of units occupied and unoccupied, new units expected in multi-unit developments over the next 24 months, the amount of tax and other revenue realized by the city as a result of multi-unit residential development completed after January 1, 2015, and the amount of tax and or other revenue the city would have realized if these properties were not developed.

Absorption study completed and preliminary data collected

Now, as of the November 9 council meeting, the study has concluded. City Council President Gary La Pelusa read the data obtained from the study aloud prior to the public comment portion of the meeting. Before that, he noted that before the residential and even commercial redevelopment ushered in by the Davis Administration, the city was losing population as job opportunities shrunk in the city.

“Since 2009, the city of Bayonne has been through a renaissance of growth after many decades of decreasing population, loss of jobs, and the lack of local opportunities,” La Pelusa said. “This change slowly occurred over time, such as the closure of the Texaco plant in the 1980s, the closure of the MOTBY in the late 1990s, and the closure of Best Foods in the early 2000s.”

As a lifelong resident and small business owner who raised his family here, La Pelusa said he has seen the ups and downs the city and community have faced. He said most people know someone who grew up here but decided to leave.

According to La Pelusa, the declining population and job opportunities have in part been remedied by the Davis Administration through residential and commercial redevelopment. He said this has been a boon for Bayonne, without which the city may not have recovered.

“There has been some fear that the values of the town will be lost as redevelopment occurs throughout the city and our community and that community itself will be a thing of the past,” La Pelusa said. “Bayonne has had a population growth over the past decade to over 70,000 people. This growth in population is a direct result of the redevelopment occurring all over our beloved city.”

Assessing a city on the rise over nearly a decade

Hearing residents’ concerns over redevelopment, he said that the administration and council agreed to a pause. Following that, one of the first things the new council sworn in after the May election did was set out to conduct the study of redevelopment impact.

La Pelusa said, “The council specifically asked for an absorption study to find out if the units built were being filled and if more units can be maintained without jeopardizing the stability of our community. We can ponder the future of Bayonne, and I feel the future is promising. The residential development impact on Bayonne needed to be studied, and this council made the study our first priority.”

Law Director Jay Coffey (left) and City Council President Gary La Pelusa (right) discuss the study on residential redevelopment at the November council meeting.

La Pelusa said according to preliminary data, things look promising for Bayonne’s future.

“After looking at the numbers, the future of the city’s well-being is encouraging,” La Pelusa said.

La Pelusa defined the absorption rate as the amount of housing stock a community has available to sell or lease, and how quickly it is being sold or rented. Absorption rates provide information on the leasing rates of a rental market or an individual property over a time period known as an absorption period, he said.

An occupancy rate is the number of units being occupied over the total amount of units available. La Pelusa said that high occupancy rates show the demand for people wanting to live in that area.

“These rates are important to understand the health of the community, buildings, and what impact it will have on the city’s revenue,” La Pelusa said.

Preliminary data shows high absorption and occupancy rates

Since 2009, there have been 20 residential redevelopments constructed featuring 2,978 units. He said these buildings were 92.6 percent occupied.

This number includes buildings that are currently in their lease up phase, La Pelusa said. The average stabilization for buildings that have been leased up is about 94.6 percent occupied. According to La Pelusa, the lease up period is an indicator of the absorption.

The buildings currently in their lease up period are being leased “at a breakneck pace” of five to six months, La Pelusa said. Meanwhile, the industry standard is up to 12 months. He noted that in one example, a building was fully leased up within 2 to 3 months.

“To put this in perspective, for a building to be considered stabilized according to Fannie Mae, a federal government created corporation tasked with lending money to mortgage lenders, the minimum occupancy rate for Fannie Mae to issue a multi-family loan is 75 percent occupancy,” La Pelusa said. “With that stated, the city occupancy rate for new construction is will in excess of this standard.”

According to La Pelusa, the minimum occupancy rate per federal standards is 75 percent. Given the data, the city’s occupancy rate is way above that.

La Pelusa said the current occupancy rate is even higher than its 10-year historical average of 91.372 percent, according to data from Rutgers University. He added that a full presentation from city professionals will follow his announcement to detail their findings.

According to La Pelusa, the pause will likely end soon after more conversations with administration officials.

“The preliminary findings are extremely promising for the pause on development to end after more discussion with the administration and my council colleagues,” La Pelusa said.

Residents have mixed reactions to the announcement

During the public comment, former city employee and outspoken resident Gail Godesky said residential redevelopment had not stopped. This was a reference to the planning approvals for projects that were allowed to go forward even amid the halt, in part due to prior approvals.

A rendering of the planned 18-story Silk Lofts residential redevelopment that prompted the pause but was approved during it anyway due to prior planning approvals. Rendering courtesy of Marchetto Higgins Stieve Architects.

“There was never a pause on redevelopment,” she said. “So that needs to be corrected.”

Meanwhile, resident Mike Morris was happy with the results of the study. He said it showed his property value had increased.

“I’m happy with the absorption rate study and the numbers that make my property more valuable. I know how valuable it is, because right now, I’ve had several offers on my particular home. I turned one down today. I had a near contract… I’m glad I didn’t accept it, because that study proves that my home is very valuable. And I’m very happy with it. So thank you.”

Now it appears that Bayonne is getting ready to march full steam ahead with plans to again allow residential redevelopment in the city.

Davis told the Bayonne Community News: “I would like to thank everyone who was involved with this important analysis of Bayonne’s housing units and population growth. The overwhelming majority of new apartments in Bayonne are occupied. The study demonstrates clearly that people looking for a place to live find Bayonne to be an attractive community. We will keep a close eye on housing and population trends as we continue to plan for the future.”

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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