1,000 Homes in 1,000 Days; Gusciora Will Rebuild Trenton
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D), candidate for Mayor of Trenton, declared that his Administration would transform 1,000 abandoned and dilapidated houses into viable taxpaying “homes” in his first 1,000 days in office. The initiative incentivizes the use of Trenton small businesses for repairs and creates 160,000 hours of youth vocational training hours for Trenton students.
“Our city’s non-profits and vocational students, with the guidance of business and labor, have the means to rebuild Trenton” – Gusciora argues – “my opponent wants to bring in big business, but I want to keep our money and our resources in the hands of Trentonians.”
The Assemblyman urges that his plan calls for virtually no extra cost to taxpayers, engages technology already in place, and uses good old-fashioned leadership to get the job done.
“The money and technology are already there, we just need leadership to rejuvenate Trenton’s housing stock. This is the vital first step in revitalizing our community” said Gusciora.
Gusciora noted that the City of Trenton currently has approximately $400,000 in reserve funds to address vacant houses. Additionally, property owners owe almost $2.4 million dollars through the capital city’s Vacant Property Ordinance. Under the current administration, this money has remained largely uncollected.
Trenton too has access to $11 million to demolish decrepit vacant houses which lie idle, and under-utilized.
“We cannot allow vacant properties to continue to plague our city. Our neighborhoods hold too many broken homes, with caved-in roofs and shattered or boarded up windows. Trenton deserves better.” –Gusciora continued
The Assemblyman laid out 6 steps to implement his goal of “1,000 homes in 1,000 days”.
- While Mayor, Gusciora will utilize the stagnant vacant housing fund ($400,000) to implement and oversee Trenton’s technology solution, Gov Pilot. This program will allow the Gusciora administration to manage all properties with 21st-century efficacy. The technology can help supervise vacant properties, allowing for efficient code enforcement, and the all-important fee collection. Mayor Gusciora will also allocate money from this fund for staff training time, hardware, additional technology, and criteria for reporting on vacant housing fees and code enforcement in the city.
- The list of vacant housing will be consolidated, and the fees processed will generate an estimated $2.4 million in revenue.
- Data accrued from the technology implementation will within 6 months develop a list of properties deemed unsalvageable. The list will be submitted for use under the Abandoned Housing Rehabilitation Act (APRA), allowing for demolition. With community input, a list of 250 “most dilapidated” vacant houses will be determined and demolished using the previously underutilized $11 million state fund.
- Strategic Homesteading will commence within 12 months – along with the community research submitted in 2015 through an Isles grant project. Through a “contracted” experienced non-profit, the top 4 or 5 neighborhoods will be supported to identify 1,000 rehabilitation projects (vacant properties). The city will support these projects through matching grants of up to $10,000 per property. Grants will be supplied through the revenue gained from the Vacant Property Ordinance Fund. Grant criteria will allocate the largest monetary amounts for Trenton contractors. An additional $1,600 will be awarded, per plot, to contractors for up to 160 hours of paid training for Trenton students to learn property rehabilitation skills. Programs like Isles’ “Youth Build” will help to identify prospective students. Students will subsequently receive training in roofing, carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work.
- To facilitate vacant property rehabilitation projects, Gusciora is committing to appoint a “Vacant Property Rehabilitation Ombudsman”; utilizing funds from the Vacancy House Fund. This appointee will advise all investors, private or public, with city permits, approvals and code enforcement. This is a critical role to not only attract investors but to guarantee completion of the proposed projects. Accountability is essential.
- In order to make up for time lost during the previous administration, Mayor Gusciora proposes bonding anticipated revenue to make the matching grants that much more substantial. “We need to move the process of rehabilitation forward” – Gusciora stressed – “Trenton shouldn’t have to wait any longer for quality, and equitable housing.” A five-year bond on $25 million in revenue will yield $25,000 grants per house for the 1,000 homes.
“Trenton will be a new city under my administration” – said Gusciora.
In all, Gusciora will utilize the initial $400,000 in the unused vacancy fund to implement the property management technology; kickstart the $11 million demolition fund; collect $2.4 million in annual vacant property fees; hire a qualified non-profit to launch a “homesteading” program which will connect vacant properties with investors, and lastly, appoint an ombudsman to help bring new property investors to our great city.
Finally, Gusciora notes that he will add $1,600 to any grant, up to $1,600,000 over 3 years, for contractors who hire Trenton students for 160 hours. Vocational programs will be the lifeblood of this initiative.
“I am committed to not only knocking down 250 dilapidated houses in the neighborhoods needing the most attention, but I am committing to providing leadership and vision to rehabilitate 1,000 vacant homes in my first 3 years in office,” concluded Gusciora