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An alternative approach to affordable urban housing.

For the past few decades, various governmental agencies have tried to meet the demand for affordable urban housing with subsidized, high-rise rental projects. It has been a disaster, resulting in deteriorated buildings, blighted neighborhoods, acute crime and safety problems and a fleeing middle class.

Now a new and imaginative approach promises to restore both neighborhoods and housing facilities in our inner-cities through a simple precept -- homeownership. Successfully employed in recent years for pockets of deterioration throughout The Bronx, Upper Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, the practice of replacing subsidized rental housing with market-rate affordable for-sale housing has also been adopted by several New Jersey communities.

Last month, AFC Realty Capital, as a partner in Century Holdings LLC, were designated by the City of Plain field to develop an expected 200-300 one- and two-family housing units over the next three to four years. This month, a similar venture has been approved by the City of Newark for approximately 400 two-family homes in the South Ward, parts of which are considered to be a difficult neighborhood.

Both efforts are true private/public partnerships to produce housing for and bring the middle class back to the urban communities. The cities are selling the lots at very reasonable costs to keep the price of the homes at affordable levels. Attractive market-rate mortgages with low down payments will be available from several lenders to qualified buyers. County grants are facilitating construction financing.

For buyers, the result is participating in a pioneering program to instill pride of ownership in people who have not had the chance to acquire their American Dream before. It is a fact that owning a home provides a pride of ownership and self-esteem that living in a subsidized high-rise rental cannot satisfy. And to underscore the point, the price of the units will include a personal computer because we realize that school-age children need to be computer-literate to compete in today's sophisticated world.

But our programs are expected to do more than Provide affordable housing.

Non-income-producing, property will. be returned to the tax rolls. The quality of life will be improved for entire neighborhoods as existing property owners are prompted, to' rehabilitate their buildings and new investment arrives. Retailers will be persuaded to once again locate in these urban communities.

The Plainfield and Newark 'efforts are certainly worthy of close study as the programs develop. They are apt examples for other cities with similar housing problems to emulate.
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Title Annotation:AFC Realty Capital
Author:FEFFERMAN, ARTHUR
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 19, 2000
Words:405
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