Monday, March 7, 2011

New Jersey Redevelopment Forum

I attended the annual Redevelopment Forum held by New Jersey Future last Friday (fyi - no cost to Plainfield for my attendance). This full day learning and networking event had much information relevant for Plainfield.

Of great interest was the New Jersey economy report by Rutgers/Bloustein School economist Joe Seneca. He shared some sobering data on jobs and real estate markets. New Jersey (and the nation) may have seen a Wall Street recovery but a jobs recovery will take at least 10 years before we gain back the jobs lost in the last three years. And the new jobs will be mostly lower paying ones than the ones lost. This has already had a negative impact on the real estate market. Seneca believes we are on the verge of a triple dip in residential home prices - the double dip happened last April with the expiration of the federal tax credit for home buyers.

At the same time, rental vacancies are down so rent costs are rising for residential. Rentals will also rebound because much of the new construction in the last four decades has been for owners, not renters - so the rental market is underbuilt. We are seeing this unfold in downtown Plainfield with the difficulties selling condos at the Monarch and with West 2nd St Commons being planned as rental units.

Seneca's predictions for the future:
1. 2011 - 2020: a slow, lengthy and painful economic recovery in New Jersey
2. 2011: accelerated foreclosures, financing is scarce
3. 2012: the beginnings of a housing recovery, redevelopment planning off the back burner
4. 2013 - 2017: Generation Y peak home buying years, economy slowly recovers, redevelopment projects shift back into gear

Seneca drove home a point about "rail towns" and transit villages. They are an emerging market and development outlook and real estate value is better in these areas than for New Jersey in general. He shared data to prove his point. He responded to a question from a Somerville planner regarding the Hudson River tunnel, saying the the new tunnel proposal is a real opportunity for the Raritan Valley. Even though there are fewer new "slots" going to Manhatten than with the canceled ARC tunnel, Bergen and Passaic counties are not included in the new proposal. Still there will be competition among rail lines and Plainfield will have to have a strong presence within the Raritan Valley Coalition.

For me the take home lesson for Plainfield: we are on the right "track", having started our planning with the vision study and having a developers agreement with Landmark for downtown projects. Planning for the future must continue, particularly on the economic development, transit area zoning and downtown parking fronts. The downtown streetscape improvements begun under the McWilliams administration must continue. We must re-organize citizens and legislators to advocate for the Raritan Valley Line (remember CLANG? - we need it back).

Seneca's look into New Jersey's future included the following statement: WINKs (single women with no children) and minorities will lead the way with residential housing demand.


Anonymous said...

It's nice you attend conferences and then pat yourself on the back. I see nothing going on. My taxes keep going up!

Anonymous said...

While you tout "no cost" to the taxpayer, your counterparts on the council and PMUA continue to waste money. What are you doing to put an end to this?

Anonymous said...

It is no secret that Plainfield's housing stock is one of the leading draws to the "Queen City". With constant raising of property taxes and PMUA charges, no real economic redevelopment over the past 20 years that the people can really notice and no huge improvement in school system; combined with the current state of the economy the home values will continue to be depressed because of all these factors and people will leave the City and investors will buy up properties rather then owner occupants.
If there was only one wonderful project going on for the City so people could wrap themselves around a dream and support it people would become hopeful and spirits would raise and then anything is possible. They just need a leader to take them there. Do you know one that can?