Community Investment Strategies Held Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for Grand Reopening of Ocean Township Affordable Senior Housing Community

CIS - Ocean Twp Ribbon Cutting

Community Investment Strategies (CIS) held a ribbon cutting ceremony to unveil the new renovations and official rebranding of Heritage Village at Ocean, previously known as Whalepond Village – a 96-apartment, affordable senior housing community in Ocean Township, Monmouth County that serves seniors on a fixed income.

Constructed in the early 1990s, CIS recently acquired the community of one-bedroom homes and extended the deed restriction to preserve the affordability for 30 years, enabling the rent to stay low. CIS secured an allocation of 4 percent low-income housing tax credits and had a number of financial partners including Freddie Mac, the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, Prudential, New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, Township of Ocean, and the County of Monmouth.

“We are pleased to reintroduce Heritage Village at Ocean as a high-quality, affordable rental option for seniors,” said Christiana Foglio, CIS founder and CEO. “Ocean Township was hit hard during Hurricane Sandy, so restoring and renovating these apartments and extending its affordability control was incredibly important for the community.”

Mayor Christopher P. Siciliano said, “It has been a pleasure to work with CIS to preserve the Heritage Village at Ocean community.  Keeping the property affordable for the next 30 years will allow the seniors to remain in their homes.

Extensive exterior renovations include replacement of roofs, new siding, shutters, and resiliency features such as the installation of gas-powered backup generators to service common areas and elevators. Common areas were upgraded with new lighting, secure entry systems, security cameras, paint, and flooring.  Apartments were updated with new kitchen counters, energy efficient appliances, kitchen and bathroom flooring, and new vanities.  The site was enhanced with extensive landscaping and a new community sign was installed at the building’s main entrance.

The clubhouse was completely refurbished and refurnished with all new flooring, siding, entry doors, and updated kitchen and bathrooms, making it a modern, comfortable place to gather.

Rent is approximately $890 for residents at or below 60 percent median income. For leasing information, please call 732-493-3833.

Pictured:
Front Row Left to Right: Tania Brown, Vice President of CIS Management; Councilwoman Donna Schepiga; Mayor Christopher Siciliano; Maria Pota, resident; Madeline Clifton, resident; and Carrie Schultz, Property Manager

Middle Row Left to Right:  Councilman Robert V. Acerra, Sr.; Andrew Brannen, Township Manager; Councilman Richard Long; Barbara Schoor, Vice President of CIS; Kat Verdi, Help My Parents: Assisted Living Advisors; Christiana Foglio, Owner and CEO; and Anthony Marchetta, Executive Director of NJHMFA

Back Row Left to Right: Evan Williams, Prudential; Sean Cullen, ACRE Capital (Previously with RBC Capital Markets); Jeffrey Oakman, Director of Development at CIS; Jeffrey Arthanais Williams, Freddie Mac; and Raymond Ross, Board President of the Ocean Senior Citizens Housing Corporation

Encouraging Reading in Today’s Youth

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Photo: Volunteers work together to label and color-code books by reading level for the community library.

Regardless of the types of books your kids like to read, they will learn about new things, develop a strong vocabulary, and travel to distant worlds they might not have otherwise had the chance to experience. One second your little girl is on a ship fighting some swashbuckling pirates and the next she’s climbing to the top of Mount Everest on a daring rescue mission. It doesn’t matter what they read, the important thing is that they are reading.

Recognizing the tremendous impact reading has on today’s youth, we have partnered with Beam Housing Services and the Bridges of Books Foundation to introduce youth-focused libraries into several of our multi-family communities. Our Whitney Crescent, Oaks at Weatherby, and Gardens at Birmingham are the newest CIS properties to have a library implemented, complete with books color-coded based on reading grade level.  More importantly, we have initiated a free of charge summer reading enhancement two nights a week to help children age 5-13 with reading.

Each library will be used for a children’s literacy program that will build on the summer reading program that Beam introduced two years ago, which aimed to assist children in completing their summer reading assignments. At the end of the program, children will receive an e-reader in recognition of their hard work and encourage them to continue reading in their daily lives.

We always invest in the communities we develop and working with social service programs and other organizations makes it possible for us to do so. We are very thankful for the Bridges of Books Foundation, which donated an assortment of new and used books for readers of all ages, and Beam for helping us make these libraries possible.

By putting books in the hands of children who need them, we are hoping to help them develop a love of reading and let the stories take their imaginations to places they’ve always dreamed of.

Disaster 101: Emergency Preparedness in the Post-Sandy Building Industry

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When Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast in October 2012, it became the second-costliest such event in U.S. history, following Hurricane Katrina. The destruction resulting from the storm not only changed the way New Jerseyans live – it also changed the way real estate developers do business.

Community Investment Strategies (CIS), a leading developer of affordable multifamily housing communities, was one of 12 affordable housing organizations in New Jersey and New York that received a grant from the Enterprise Community Partners to participate in its three-year Learning Collaborative for Multifamily Housing Resilience program aimed at recovering, rebuilding and reforming the way builders plan post-Sandy.

Since then, CIS, like many development firms and organizations affected by the storm, has analyzed its emergency preparedness efforts – and for good reason. Resiliency planning contributes to a company’s success. At CIS, our efforts reinforce our company’s reputation for providing a quality product, show that we are a conscientious developer that cares about residents and their ability to live successfully in their homes, and protect our sites because we are prepared for the worst.

Identifying the Need

Resiliency planning goes beyond anticipating and preparing for a natural disaster or an emergency situation. While many of the Learning Collaborative partners consisted
of public agencies and non-profit supportive housing groups, our challenge as a for-profit company was in distinguishing between CIS’ responsibilities as a landlord and the renters’ responsibilities as tenants.

One of CIS’ primary focuses during the initial days following Superstorm Sandy was to identify operational areas that we could modify to better meet both the company’s and residents’ needs in the future. When Sandy hit, many of the families living in our multi-family housing units faced the same challenges as those living in private, single-family residences: loss of power and/or heat, confusion about evacuation plans and insufficient emergency supplies.

A key component of any emergency preparedness plan should include identifying and addressing critical issues in a timely manner. For CIS, that response was two-fold: what actions needed to be taken to continue the company’s operations, and how could we address the unexpected influx of requests from the management side of our business?

As a result, CIS is developing community-oriented relationships with groups that provide emergency relief services. That way, if the need arises, there is already an established line of communication with local organizations to assist rental occupants.

We also evaluated our operational procedures to ensure we knew how to communicate if phones or email were inoperable, who was responsible for visiting each site to assess possible
damage and coordinate plans for repairs, and what was needed to return damaged buildings or properties to their functional state.

Taking Action

Successful developers must consistently evaluate their building design and construction practices. We found that some design elements that had been incorporated from an aesthetic
standpoint actually served a functional purpose in Superstorm Sandy’s aftermath – fireplaces in some multifamily buildings provided residents with necessary heat, so we have since begun
incorporating fireplaces into more of our buildings.

Other building practices to consider may include:

  • Electronic security controls: If the power goes out, these controls stop operating. In addition to providing residents with a manual way to override these controls should the electronic system stop functioning, builders should consider tying these systems into back-up generators.
  • Emergency lighting: Most battery packs that supply lighting in an emergency work for eight hours, but many buildings lost power for days following Superstorm Sandy. Consider supplying each of your buildings with backup battery packs or connecting these to generators for the emergency lighting systems.
  • Traditional construction techniques: Look beyond standard requirements and codes and brainstorm innovative ways to combine weather-barrier products to assist with the management of windblown rain or flooding.
  • Insurance coverage: Review and assess your insurance policies to ensure you have adequate coverage. Consider each property’s unique needs and adjust your plans accordingly.

Planning for a Prepared Future

As a developer in a post-Sandy world, we must become more conscious of development locations from an engineering and scientific modeling standpoint, especially as it relates to how we manage flood waters that may threaten our properties. Our company, like many others, is being proactive by building our properties higher or further above the flood elevation limits than the existing codes and regulations require.

Builders’ perspectives have changed, as well – no one expects to avoid damage completely during a natural disaster or unexpected event. We understand that environmental factors and emergency situations occur, but we can employ design and construction techniques to help minimize their damaging effects on our properties.

In a post-Sandy world, you can prepare for unexpected disasters by taking the following precautions:

  • Review your company’s emergency protocols.
  • Analyze your plan and identify any gaps.
  • Discuss emergency preparedness with others.

Promoting the importance of emergency preparedness will result in a community at large that is better-equipped to handle disasters – weather-related or not.

Heritage Village at Oakhurst Underway Offering Affordable Senior Living Options in Monmouth County

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Photo: Pictured left to right – Anthony L. Marchetta, executive director, HMFA; Ocean Township Mayor Chris Siciliano; and Christiana Foglio, founder and CEO, Community Investment Strategies.

We are pleased with the construction progress underway at Heritage Village at Oakhurst, following a groundbreaking ceremony this past spring. There is a high amount of interest in the new residence, and we look forward to opening doors in fall of 2016.

When complete, CIS’ Heritage Village at Oakhurst, which is being built using federal Sandy Recovery funds, will comprise 93 one and two-bedroom rental apartments for income qualified households 55 years and older within one four-story, 100,000 square-foot building. The community will replace affordable senior homes in the area that were destroyed by flooding, will incorporate specific resiliency design elements to prevent and address potential weather and disaster-related events.

We have designed Heritage Village to offer vibrant, affordable living for adults 55 and older who are looking for a place to thrive. We are proud to work on a project that is replenishing affordable housing options for seniors that were lost due to flooding.  They are now able to return to the community they called home.

The New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA), an affiliate of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA), provided financing for Heritage Village at Oakhurst and approximately $11 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Disaster Recovery funds through the Fund for Restoration of Multifamily Housing (FRM).

Anthony L. Marchetta HMFA Executive Director attended the groundbreaking event and said, “The HMFA is immensely pleased to be a part of Heritage Village at Oakhurst, which would not have broken ground without the collaborative effort of our agency, CIS, Ocean Township and Monmouth County. This senior development will not only deliver quality affordable housing opportunities to seniors affected by the storm, but also introduce new investment to the community.

Ocean Township Mayor Christopher Siciliano added, “Ocean Township is proud to welcome a new community development that fills a void for seniors who were displaced in the advent of Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy.  We look forward to the completion of what we’re sure will be a valuable asset to our community.”

During the first three months of leasing of Heritage Village at Oakhurst, individuals who were impacted by Sandy and registered for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance or who rented an apartment or owned a primary residence that was no longer habitable because of Sandy damage will be given priority for residency.

Financing includes HMFA Construction and Permanent Financing, Community Block Development Grant Disaster Recovery Fund for Multi-family Recovery, NJHMFA Special Need Housing Trust Funds, Monmouth County HOME Funds, and Township Of Ocean. Financing and Low Income Housing Tax Credit Equity provided by Enterprise Community Investments.

Who Will Take Care of Me?

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Who will take care of me? This is a question that millions of seniors in the United States ask themselves every day. We are constantly being bombarded with advertising for home health care, assisted living residences, senior housing, and adult day care. But how do you know when it’s the right time to start looking into your senior living options?

Unfortunately, too many people don’t make this decision until a crisis presents itself. When this happens, a family member usually has to make a rushed decision without direct input from the senior. Seniors should start the conversation early and evaluate all their options, giving them time to make a decision they’ll be happy with.

Based on my own family’s life experience and those of others near and dear to me, I wish to offer seniors some advice and counsel:

Start the conversation now. The best time to evaluate the options is when you don’t need them. Visit assisted living residences, continuing care retirement communities, and independent senior communities in the local area. It’s good to visit different facilities, check out the offered activities, speak with current residents, and meet with administrators to get a sense of the lifestyle. Even if you aren’t looking to move into one of the communities that day, facility administrators will still take the time to provide you with the necessary information.

Be honest with yourself. Just because staying at home may seem more appealing or convenient that doesn’t mean it is the best thing for you. Have you properly and objectively accessed your surroundings? Are you at risk of falling? Are there too many stairs? Can you safely get in and out of the shower or bath? Can you properly maintain your home? Do you have the financial capabilities to cover the cost of needed renovations? These are all questions you need to ask yourself before you decide to stay in your home.

Control the decision. Meet with your family, an elder lawyer, and a financial advisor to plan your expenses now and ensure a high-quality of life in the future. Determine the most important decisions for you. It could be living close to your existing community, moving closer to family, having continuing care, or living independently for as long as possible. The good news is there are options to meet everyone’s needs. Early planning can be the difference between you controlling the decision and someone making it for you.

Starting the conversation early and thoroughly researching your options will enable you to make the right decision. Being in control of your situation versus being forced into making a decision based on medical need or a crisis will provide a more comfortable and overall better outcome.

Not Your Grandmother’s Senior Housing…

Heritage Village at Rosegate | Affordable Senior Housing, NJ

Many people’s views of senior housing are the large, brick high-rise communities we see in older suburban settings occupied by sweet blue-haired ladies.

Well, that may be your image of your grandmother’s senior housing development, but it’s not what’s being built today. I don’t know about you, but a friend of mine is 63, and the only time he thinks of himself as a senior is when he gets the senior discount at the movie theater. Today’s age-restricted housing is more like a great apartment with a senior discount. The majority of housing options for seniors, otherwise known as the mature set, are being developed by private developers in many towns and cities throughout the country. These are attractive rental units that attract the younger, active adult set (55+), as well as older classic seniors (75+). They are found in wealthy suburbs and urban communities alike.

Active adults today have choices, and affordable options are everywhere. These communities offer rent 30 to 40 percent lower than comparable market units. What makes these apartments different than market units is that they have a minimum age requirement of 55, do not allow children under 18, and come with income eligibility requirements.  Other than that, they look and feel like luxury apartments with amenities.

The income qualification is based on annual income, but the important point is that seniors are still allowed to have assets (money in the bank or a home). The calculation of income is based only on annual income (what you put in your tax return), including interest earning or dividends. For someone of retirement age, this is a perfect option to keep your cash in the bank.

Moreover, age-restricted residences offer amenities that you usually only find in luxury housing, including exercise rooms with treadmills and weekly classes like Tai chi. In addition, walk-in closets, spacious layouts, dishwashers, and washer and dryers are found in each unit. Social activities, transportation, and large community rooms that feature fireplaces, flat screen TV’s, computer centers, and libraries are the norm in this new breed of senior housing, and it is not unusual to find a poker game, tailgate football party, or movie night. Social activities have long passed the days of bingo.

The economic advantage for seniors entering fixed income years is that lower rents enable seniors and active adults to use their savings for quality of life enhancements like travel, a splurge at the mall, or that occasional dinner out on the town. The quality of life in many cases increases as a person decides to move to an age-restricted community, and if they happen to be male, they will be very popular with the with the more than 70 percent women to men ratio.

Age-restricted residences are easily found by an internet search or a call to the local community office on aging. For affordable options, check us out at www.CISNJ.com.