Dr. Walter D. McNeil, Jr., Executive Director for the Orange Housing Authority, was voted unanimously to serve on the board of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council-National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (MARC-NAHRO).
Dr. McNeil will be working with other public housing officials in developing practices that will improve standards in Rental Assistance Demonstration and Housing Choice Vouchers programs, public/private partnerships, as well as finding creative ways for public housing authorities to invest in community development.
“We are pioneering new housing concepts in Orange in order to strengthen our capacity as a proactive, focused public housing agency,” said Dr. McNeil. “I look forward to exploring the diverse opportunities that exist so we can help other housing agencies across the Eastern seaboard achieve their goals, as well as bring back some great ideas to Orange.”
Also elected was Executive Director for the Irvington Housing Authority, David Allen Brown, who will serve a two-year term as the new president of MARC-NAHRO.
“As member agencies, we have a collective goal towards improving standards and practices in public housing,” Dr. McNeil said. “We’re seeing a lot of changes on the federal level so it is extremely important that we think innovatively to ensure sufficient housing is offered in our neighborhoods. I am proud to serve in this role.”
In Orange, the housing authority is developing the area into a family-friendly suburban experience. Dr. McNeil joined the Orange Housing Authority in 2005 after serving 5 years as Executive Director for the Plainfield Housing Authority. Since then, he has worked with his board to transform the East Ward by revamping old, abandoned properties in the neighborhood. Today, the community is safer and the property values are stronger because of his guidance and leadership.
The MARC NAHRO region represents Delaware, The District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Officials Break Ground on Affordable Housing Development in Orange Funded by Sandy Disaster Recovery Funds
Local, county, state and federal officials attended a groundbreaking on May 12 for the building of the Walter G. AlexanderVillage, Phase III housing complex, located on Parrow Street adjacent to the OakwoodAvenue Elementary School and its second building, located on Wilson Place.
The development is supported by a $7.4 million tax credit award from the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA) and $3.5 million from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Sandy Disaster Recovery funds.
The 54,300-square-foot project will comprise a 16-unit, three-story building on Parrow Street and 26-unit, four-story building on Wilson Place, as well as a shared 4,500-square-foot community room.
The new development is a much-heralded public-private partnership between the Alpert Group of Fort Lee, HACO, and the authority’s development arm, the Orange Housing Development Corporation (OHDC).
“Dr. Walter G. Alexander Village III is a continuation of our commitment to rehabilitate the East Ward,” said Dr. Walter D. McNeil, Jr., HACO executive director. “We’ve already built 48 affordable housing units for seniors and 66 affordable housing family developments in the area. We are here now, with hats and shovels, ready to build another 42 units for seniors and local families who want a safe and an attractive place to live.”
Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver, who represents Orange, was amongst those who attended the event. “There are two things the residents of Orange prioritize: housing and employment,” she said. “Envisioning this transformation is like a dream come true.”
In the past, the city has experienced serious housing issues, with unsafe, dilapidated buildings as workforce housing. The housing authority is aggressively branching out from its daily management of public housing to tackle the issues affecting the overall quality of life for Orange residents.
Senator Nia Gill urged residents to rally behind such projects so the community can see positive change. “We are creating here an atmosphere where we can be safe; where we can raise our children; where we can further develop our commitment to this wonderful city,” she said. “Affordable housing means houses but it also means moving people forward.”
The housing authority and OHDC have studied 404 properties in the East Ward that are part of the Central Orange Redevelopment Plan. The study revealed that 33 percent of the properties were under-utilized, with most of the properties abandoned, vandalized or vacant.
In response, Orange housing officials have steadily acquired and demolished blighted properties and redeveloped scattered sites throughout the city’s East Ward.
The Dr. Walter G. Alexander Village was a public housing complex built in 1952. It has since been demolished, replaced with attractive, modern, low-rise construction. The “new” Dr. Walter G. Alexander development is the city’s largest expansion of workforce housing. Located betweenParrow Street and Wilson Place, the new construction has come to symbolize tremendous turnaround and investment in the city’s East Ward.
The project is slated for completion by early 2016.
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