Princeton Community Housing is the largest organization providing affordable housing in Princeton. Their 2012 Annual Report, titled ‘Celebration and Opportunity’ offers an insight into the operations of the non-profit, including detailed breakdowns of their different communities, and resident profiles. We caught up with PCH executive director Edward Truscelli to find out more about what’s been going on.
Walkable Princeton: Ed, what do you think have been the major achievements of Princeton Community Housing this year?
Edward Truscelli: In addition to the continued success of our existing communities, we are particularly happy to have opened two new affordable homes at Shirley Court. This was achieved in collaboration with the former Princeton Borough using their Affordable Housing Trust Fund and funds from our contributors. These units are particularly convenient, because they are ‘in-town’, walkable homes, enabling residents to walk to many workplaces and amenities.
WP: Princeton has a strong track record of providing affordable housing, through organizations such as Princeton Housing Authority and Princeton Community Housing. Do you think we’re getting on top of the affordability problem?
ET: No – what we’re seeing is an ever-greater need for more affordable housing. When we look at our communities- applications to Princeton Community Village are up 16% this year; applications to Harriet Bryan are up 10%. We have 800 households on the waiting list for affordable housing, which I think matches anecdotal reports that there is a big problem with affordability in Princeton.
WP: Princeton recently approved two big infill redevelopments, at the Merwick-Stanworth site and the AvalonBay apartments on the old Hospital Site. Both of these developments will add substantial amounts of affordable housing. Do you think these projects will finally take care of the affordability problem in Princeton?
ET: What I would say is that those projects represent a step in the right direction. We will be involved as administrative agent on the affordable units at Merwick-Stanworth, to ensure appropriate compliance with COAH regulations. But we really need more opportunities on this sort of scale to make a significant response to the need for affordable housing, particularly at sites close to jobs in town.
WP: What should somebody do if they wanted to rent affordable housing through Princeton Community Housing? And how much does it cost?
ET: I would say, get in touch and let us know about your circumstances and we will do what we can to help. You can find information about income qualifications and thresholds in a factsheet on our website, but the best thing to do is to call. As for rents, it varies depending on your income so I’m reluctant to make any generalizations. The average rent in Princeton Community Village is $716 per month for a one-bedroom unit.
WP: What are your ambitions for Princeton Community Housing in the near future?
ET: The goal is to increase the total number of affordable units that we are able to offer, particularly in-town units.
WP: And what can people do to help you achieve that?
ET: There are a few things. The first is to support our mission by being pro-affordable housing. Prof. Douglas Massey, of Princeton University recently published a new report, ‘Climbing Mount Laurel‘, which showed in clear detail that affordable housing does not negatively impact host communities, and makes a huge difference to increasing economic and educational opportunities for its tenants. Another thing we are looking for is support with tools to make it easier to add affordable housing, in terms of zoning modifications and removing barriers to increasing supply. And finally, as a non-profit organization, we look for financial support, both in terms of municipal contributions and donations from supporters in the local community.
WP: And what about you? You’ve been working as executive director of Princeton Community Housing for a little over a year…how are you finding the job?
ET: Yes, I’ve been working here for 16 months now, and I must say I find it extremely rewarding. I’ve been involved in designing and building affordable housing for several years, but I really appreciate the diversity of experiences that come from my new role, and I really enjoy assisting our sincere and dedicated staff.
WP: Thanks for your time and good luck with your work!