Middlesex County, New Jersey, is a large urban and suburban county located halfway between New York and Philadelphia. It has extensive transportation links to both metropolitan areas. Although some of the cities in the Urban County were settled during the colonial era, most development in Middlesex County occurred after World War II and continued at a rapid pace through the 1980s. In 1990 Total county population was 671,780, a 13-percent increase from 1980.
The Middlesex County (Urban County) Consolidated Plan was developed on behalf of the county and the 19 municipalities which, since 1975, have comprised an Urban County for entitlement funding purposes.
For Fiscal Year 1995, the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) entitlement is $2.2 million, while HOME Investment Partnership (HOME) funding is $688,000. Most of the funding will go for senior centers and services; and for construction, rehabilitation, and repair of low- and moderate-income housing and housing for persons with special needs.
Two public meetings were held, one during the plan preparation period and another following release of the draft plan. Copies of the draft plan were placed in all Urban County public libraries. Additional copies were also sent to municipalities, Urban County public housing agencies, relevant private and public agencies, and municipalities and counties contiguous with the Urban County area. The Consolidated Plan was approved by the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders on June 19, 1995.
MAP 1 depicts points of interest in the jurisdiction.
Part of the Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), Middlesex County had a 1990 median family income (MFI) of $55,147, which was 53 percent higher than national MFI of $35,939. This high median made the area one of the most affluent MSAs in the Nation. In 1995 the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates the MFI for this area to be $63,200.
Despite those positive economic influences, there were 9,320 extremely low-income (0-30 percent of MFI) households in the Urban County, according to the 1990 census. Half of these households were elderly. There were also 10,137 low-income (31-50 percent of MFI) households and 7,448 moderate-income (51-80 percent of MFI) households.
Although African American households comprised 6 percent of all Urban County households, they comprised only 4 percent of owner households but 11 percent of renter households. Similarly, although Hispanic households are 4 percent of all households, they are only 3 percent of owner households but 6 percent of renter households.
Significant numbers of recent immigrants have chosen to live in the county because of the proximity to jobs and the presence of sizeable populations with similar ethnicity. The overall county has rich ethnic diversity.
MAP 2 depicts points of interest and low-moderate income areas.
MAP 3 depicts points of interest, low-moderate income areas, and minority concentration levels.
MAP 4 depicts points of interest, low-moderate income areas, and unemployment levels.
Employment in Middlesex County suffered during the recession of the early-1990s. About 33,900 jobs have been lost since 1989, when the number of jobs peaked at 370,000. Unemployment reached a high of 9.3 percent in 1992 but dropped to 5.3 percent by February 1995. If employment in New Jersey continues to rebound, Middlesex County will continue to grow because of job expansion and immigration from the boroughs of New York City and from old urban areas in northern New Jersey.
Among the nearly 10,000 extremely low-income households, 78 percent reported some sort of housing problem. As households rise through the income categories, the reported incidence of housing problems decreases.
Among low-income households, 96 percent of large family renter households reported experiencing some sort of problem, with overcrowding being a significant problem.
Elderly homeowners reported the lowest incidence of housing problems, with less than half these households experiencing some sort of problem. Nearly three-quarters of extremely low-income homeowner households were elderly, while over half of low-income homeowner households were elderly.
Between 1980 and 1990, the number of housing units in the Urban County municipalities increased by 27 percent. At the time of the 1990 census, the vacancy rate for owner-occupied or for-sale units was 2.5 percent, while the vacancy rate for rental units was 6.7 percent.
In 1990 8,089 affordable rental units were available for 8,102 extremely low- and low-income renter households residing in the Urban County municipalities. Affordability percentages suggest that the only households who could actually afford most of the affordable housing were those at the upper end of the low-income scale. Furthermore, some affordable units were occupied by families who were not in the extremely low- and low-income categories, denying access to the households with the greatest needs.
Only 2,807 occupied and vacant affordable owner units were available for 11,355 extremely low- and low-income owner households. This 8,000 unit gap indicated that many owner households could not find adequate housing to meet the affordability standards relative to their income.
Moderate-income households had more options. Nearly 17,460 affordable rental units were available for 2,783 moderate-income renter households, while 5,350 affordable owner units were available for 4,665 moderate-income owner households.
Almost two-thirds of the extremely low-income renters reported paying more than 50 percent of their income for rent (severely cost burdened), while three-quarters reported paying more than 30 percent of their income for rent (cost burdened). Four out of five extremely low-income owners were cost burdened.
Four out of five low-income renter households were cost burdened, while more than half of low-income homeowners were also cost burdened. Furthermore, decent rental housing for large families continues to be difficult to obtain, and rental housing for low-income families appears to be unaffordable without substantial subsidy.
According to the 1993 New Jersey Homeless Population Survey, there were 279 homeless persons in Middlesex County. Of these, 272 were sheltered, 7 were unsheltered, and 168 persons were members of homeless families with children.
More recent countywide estimates have suggested the presence of more than 4,000 homeless persons, including over 1,000 homeless families. Of those estimates, nearly 1,600 will have special needs stemming from severe mental illness, alcohol or other drug abuse, domestic violence, and HIV/AIDS.
The County Board of Social Services provides qualifying homeless families with emergency aid in the form of rental assistance, which is limited to a 1-year period.
There are 527 public housing units in the Urban County municipalities, and more than half are senior citizen housing. Of all potentially available Section 8 rental subsidies, 750 are administered by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, while 383 are administered by the County Public Housing Agency, and 300 are administered by the municipal housing authorities. An additional 2,042 assisted housing units have been developed under other programs.
Although various public policies negatively affect affordable housing, these policies are intended to produce other desirable public objectives. Such potentially adverse policies include the following:
The county has implemented several strategies in order to address barriers to affordable housing. These strategies include: streamlining the development process; reducing reliance on property taxes; increasing available housing subsidies at Federal, State and local levels; and creating and improving publicly supported programs that enable extremely low- and low-income households to achieve economic self-sufficiency.
Of the Urban County's 119,808 housing units, about 72 percent (86,399) were constructed prior to 1980 and could potentially contain lead-based paint.
Between 1980 and 1990, the elderly population increased 57 percent. (Middlesex County has projected a 27 percent increase in the number of elderly by the year 2000.) A 1995 survey showed 1,800 seniors on waiting lists for affordable rental housing. A recently-formed Task Force on Housing for the Elderly is surveying the supportive housing needs of seniors in Middlesex County.
The Middlesex County Health Department has reported that as of March 1994, there were 1,447 persons with AIDS and 371 HIV-positive persons living in the county. Furthermore, there may be 40-50 homeless persons with AIDS in need of supportive housing.
Senior centers have been identified as a high priority among public facility needs, while parks and recreation needs are of lesser priority. Sewer, water, sidewalk, and street improvements have been assigned medium and low priority. Transportation, fair housing counseling, tenant/landlord counseling, and youth and handicapped services have been assigned medium priority. Accessibility needs and commercial-industrial relations have also been assigned medium priority.
For the 5-year plan, the following affordable housing strategies are assigned high priority:
Overall, public facilities and public service needs, both of which account for almost three-quarters of the estimated costs, are assigned highest priority.
The antipoverty strategy applies to all Middlesex County. The goals are to reduce poverty and to support actions which would increase self-sufficiency. Programs and policies used to achieve those goals include the following:
In addition to CDBG, HOME, and Emergency Shelter Grant entitlement funds, this plan includes use of Federal rental assistance certificates and vouchers, public housing subsidies, and weatherization funding. The Urban County also uses housing, community development, and human services resources that are derived from various governmental, intergovernmental, quasi-governmental, nonprofit, and for-profit organizations.
State programs include: Homeless Prevention, Shelter Assistance, Neighborhood Preservation (which rehabilitates and revitalizes neighborhoods), Balanced Housing (which helps to fund development of low- and moderate-income housing), Congregate Housing Services, Housing Assistance Corporation (which helps to construct and rehabilitate low- and moderate-income housing), Community Home Buyers and Buy and Fix It (which provide below-market mortgages to low- and moderate-income families), Home Ownership for Performing Employees, and 100 Percent Mortgage.
Local level resource programs include the Middlesex County Improvement Authority (which makes reduced-rate funds available for the construction of new low- and moderate-income housing) and the Middlesex County Department of Human Services.
Private resources come from various for-profit developers, who combine private funds with State and Federal funds in order to rehabilitate or build low- and moderate-income housing.
A number of nonprofit, service, and religious organizations also provide: case management; support services for populations with special needs; and shelter, food, and emergency services for the homeless.
Although the Middlesex County Department of Housing and Community Development is the lead agency for the Consolidated Plan, it also staffs the Middlesex Public Housing Agency. While fulfilling both of these capacities, the department regularly contacts various nonprofit housing providers and public housing agencies as well as numerous public and private health, mental health, and other service providers.
The county also coordinates with the State of New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. Joint concerns include Section 8 rental assistance programs, and the finance and supervision of housing activities.
Middlesex County monitors all program activities in order to ensure compliance with applicable regulations and requirements.
MAP 5 depicts points of interest, low-moderate income areas, unemployment levels, and proposed HUD funded projects.
MAP 6 is a map, sectioned by neighborhood, which depicts points of interest, low-moderate income areas, unemployment levels, and proposed HUD funded projects.
MAP 7 depicts points of interest, low-moderate income areas, unemployment levels, and proposed HUD funded projects within one of the four neighborhoods indicated in MAP 6.
MAP 8 depicts points of interest, low-moderate income areas, unemployment levels, and proposed HUD funded projects within another of the four neighborhoods indicated in MAP 6.
MAP 9 depicts points of interest, low-moderate income areas, unemployment levels, and proposed HUD funded project(s) from a street level vantage point; in addition, a table provides information about the project(s) depicted in MAP 9.
Key projects planned for the first year of the Consolidated Plan include:
Community Development Block Grant activities for Fiscal Year 1995 will be conducted in all 19 Urban County municipalities. Four projects, which will benefit Urban County residents and residents in the entire county, are located in the entitlement communities of Edison and New Brunswick. HOME project locations have not been selected.