• Gabriel Donio

Thinking about local apartment complexes, affordable housing


Some of the apartments at Plymouth Place Apartments. (THG/Kristin Guglietti)

The reality is, we already have quite a few apartment complexes in Hammonton, some of which have a component of affordable housing.


History tells us Plymouth Place Apartments on Main Road was built as an affordable housing complex more than 20 years ago. It was supposed to meet our affordable housing requirement at that time—as set by the Council On Affordable Housing (COAH) of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA).


Let’s be clear: the state “requires” municipalities to put affordable housing within their borders with the goal of achieving housing for people who cannot afford it, hence the name “affordable housing.” Well, that and the fact that “low-income” housing and “Section 8” housing grew to have such a stigma attached to it—as did large, government-funded housing projects—that those terms and methods aren’t seen and heard much anymore. Plymouth Place was developed and built by a private out-of-town developer back in the 1990s, not a government entity.


Plymouth Place Apartments sign located on Main Road. (THG/Kristin Guglietti)

Being completely honest, I’ve never heard that Plymouth Place did not pay its five-figure payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) to the town during the more than two decades of the apartment complex’s existence. In the original deal, that PILOT was paid mostly to the municipality, not as much to the school or the county—which certainly sweetened the deal for the municipality at the time.


Leaving history behind us and speaking of the municipality and its current leaders, one of the items on the council’s August 8 special meeting agenda is a redevelopment agreement. Not a lot of detail other than that, such as the answers to questions like “An agreement with who?” and “Redevelopment where?”


Thanks to the July 6 meeting, we do know that the council voted to enter into negotiations with a company called West End Development Associates Urban Renewal LLC for redevelopment of a property bordered by Washington Street, Messina Avenue, Orchard Street and 13th Street. Of course, there is a decent chance the August 8 meeting could also be used to potentially discuss how town-owned property on 11th and Washington Street and the current Public Works Building (formerly the Highway Garage) on S. Egg Harbor Road could be impacted by a redevelopment zone.


Your guess is as good as mine, frankly.


You really never know what this town council is going to do next. I often wonder if they do either.


If apartment complexes with a component of affordable housing is built on 11th and Washington Streets and between Washington and Messina, they possibly build two- and three-story “townhomes,” it’s safe to say our community and school district will see an impact.


One of the proposals for housing units separate from the redevelopment zone comes to us thanks to an “Inclusionary Development Zone” passed by the town in recent years that again, paved the way for 84 more units of apartments, including some affordable units, at the existing Hammonton Gardens apartment complex on 12th Street.


Add those proposed units to the ones being talked about by the council in their redevelopment zones on 11th and Washington Streets and between Washington Street and Messina Avenue. Then add existing housing complexes like Plymouth Place Apartments on Main Road, Hammonton Arms on Valley Avenue, Colonial Court Apartments on Bellevue Avenue, Main Road Apartments on Main Road, La Nor Apartments on Fairview Avenue and you are talking about hundreds of housing units, a component of the total number of which are or will be affordable housing.


That’s a lot of housing units for one small town. Our town’s character has leaned toward single-family owner-occupied homes, followed by rentals in duplexes which are former single-homes that now house two apartments (in some cases three or four).


It’s a big, sweeping change for how people live in Hammonton. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. We didn’t have the additional apartments before, and now we will. Acting like it won’t change the town is as ridiculous as acting like Plymouth Place Apartments didn’t change the former farm field it’s located on after it was built there.



Gabriel J. Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.