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Newark student housing taking away from affordable housing, city to incentivize landlords

Meghan George of the Newark Housing Authority says the waiting list for affordable housing in the city is long - exceeding 600.

It’s so long that the list - normally posted online - is closed until further notice. Newark does have special vouchers for landlords agreeing to rent affordable housing units, but George says even with guaranteed payment of rent, it’s still hard to convince many landlords.

"We have to find landlords that are willing to accept a voucher that has a price they can afford, things like that," George said. "And most of them don’t want to drop from the student price to an affordable price."

Because of this – and the growing issue of student overflow taking away from affordable housing opportunities – Newark has called in experts to study the housing landscape and make recommendations.

In a presentation Tuesday from Urban Partners, different models were presented to help incentivize landlords to rent out more affordable housing units.

Urban Partners Senior Associate Isaac Kwon says one suggestion is to engage homeowners with homes up for sale in the $130,000 range, who could be good candidates to turn their properties into affordable housing units without taking a huge cut in returns, which he says is an issue for properties of a certain value.

"There’s an opportunity cost of leaving money on the table - if you will - of not doing student housing but going to a family rental property," Kwon said.


Michael Fortner, Development Supervisor for the City of Newark, agrees that it will take some convincing to entice landlords to rent to low-income families.


“The student housing market has priced a lot of the non-student housing rental market out," Fortner said. "A modest income family isn’t going to be able to pay what a group of 3-4 students are going to pay to rent a house.”


He’s working closely with Urban Partners, who also presented case studies from three comparable college towns  – Iowa City, IA, Morgantown, WV and Burlington, VT - that have implemented programs to address similar growing demands for both student and affordable housing.

Newark is also seeking to address complaints, like celebratory “couch fires” - a symptom of overcrowded student housing.

One of Iowa City’s initiatives – called the “Good Neighborhood Property Management” program – allows residents to register property-related concerns ranging from a disorderly yard to rowdy student neighbors -  in an online portal operated by the city.

Fortner says Newark is already looking at creating a similar program.

Urban Partners is now drafting a formal report, which will be presented to city council sometime in the fall.

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