HANDS focus group discusses housing

At the second virtual meeting of Housing and Neighborhood Development Services’ Heart of Orange focus group, on Thursday, Jan. 13, homeownership, healthy housing and redevelopment are discussed by group host and HANDS Director of Programs Khady Ndiaye, top photo; Community Strategies supporting HANDS consultant Mark DeShield, middle photo; and New Jersey Community Capital fellow Olivia Simpson, bottom photo.

ORANGE, NJ — Housing and Neighborhood Development Services’ Heart of Orange focus group hosted its second virtual meeting on Thursday, Jan. 13, coming together to discuss what would benefit the city in terms of bringing homeownership, economic development and better business to Orange.

Khady Ndiaye, the director of programs for HANDS, hosted the focus group and highlighted an area in Orange specifically focused on housing and new development.

“This is part two of our conversation around housing and new developments, talking about homeownership, healthy housing, what kind of programs and policies currently exist and to discuss other programs and policies ideas for the Heart of Orange neighborhood, in order to improve the housing and redevelopment situation that’s currently going on,” Ndiaye said during the meeting.

Data concerning home ownership in the Heart of Orange area was discussed next by New Jersey Community Capital fellow Olivia Simpson. The data showed that a small portion of Orange residents own their homes, compared with corporate and investor owners.

“We saw some of these numbers last year,” Simpson said during the meeting. “It’s been somewhat stable, but you can see there is a noticeable decline. At the same time, you have the orange line at the top that shows the percent of homeowners who are cost burdened, meaning homeowners that’s spend more than 30 percent of their income each month on their housing costs, and that can be anything, from mortgage, property taxes, upkeep; everything that’s involved with maintaining your homeownership.”

Simpson said that, for these numbers, another useful piece of the picture is to look at home sales and home purchases in Orange, especially because there has been a dramatic increase in the overall volume of home sales in the neighborhood.

“So even though the share of neighborhood residents who are homeowners is decreasing, there are still a lot of people and entities buying and selling homes,” she continued. “Since 2012, this represents more than a 300-percent increase in the number of home sales each year. We don’t have full data available for 2020 or 2021 yet but, if that comes in, we will update that, and it will be part of the plan that I’ll re-share back. But the data that we have so far shows or suggests that this trend is increasing.

“If the homeownership rate is not increasing, but sales are increasing, I think it would lead me to ask who is purchasing these homes, which is another relevant piece of this conversation,’ added Olivia. “The answer comes primarily from investor owners and people who live outside of Orange. Approximately 15 percent of all the sales over the course of a 10-year period were investor owners. So, a corporation of some kind that owned the home selling to another investor, 44 percent of all buyers were corporate entities and only about 20 percent of those sales were individuals, not corporations, living in the Oranges and selling to other individuals living in the Oranges. That recaps where we are at, in terms of homeownership as a general trend.”

Residents were then asked to come up with ideas for programs or initiatives that can support residents to purchase homes in the Orange community. One resident had asked how a young couple can compete against investors, in terms of a foreclosure bid on a home.

“This is one area where we can explore the programs … and try to assist people in really understanding the process for obtaining those homes,” said Community Strategies supporting HANDS consultant Mark DeShield during the meeting.
Ndiaye agreed with DeShield.

“I would say that’s definitely a great suggestion to explore, especially (regarding) COVID. I looked at the docket this morning and there are 20 homes right now that are pending sale at auction for foreclosure, and many of them have been sort of in limbo since 2020, because of the variety of COVID-related continuances that they’ve gotten. That’s definitely a great suggestion of something to look into, sooner rather than later.”