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Housing Report

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Trenton's housing market is full of opportunities with the potential to improve significantly. The city has several stable neighborhoods with a strong home-ownership rate, and others poised to revitalize with the right tools and policies in place. Adding to this potential are the city's significant assets that can contribute toward housing revitalization, including its central location in an economically vibrant region, its educational institutions, its role as a government hub, and its transportation connections through multiple modes. These assets will be key for attracting new residents and maintaining residents that prefer a dense well-connected environment.
However, Trenton faces a variety of housing challenges impacting its ability to be the region’s location of choice for residents of all income levels. The city’s biggest housing obstacles include an overall suppressed housing market, limited desirable market-rate housing, vacancy and abandonment, a lack of quality affordable housing, and difficulties in maintaining quality housing stock in its neighborhoods.
To build a premier economic and cultural center built on arts, industry, and education, as well as meet the desire to reinforce high-quality neighborhoods and a 24/7 downtown Trenton, this report outlines a framework for evaluating the progress Trenton is making towards its community-driven vision. This framework focuses on:
  • Overall Housing Quality

  • Vacancy and Abandonment

  • Market-Rate Housing

  • Affordable Housing

  • Historic Neighborhoods

Unlike other frameworks in this Master Plan, however, the recommendations made in the housing report do not directly correspond to this evaluative framework. Instead, the City has identified five approaches to meeting its housing goals:
  • Foundational Initiatives: The City must begin work on three core initiatives that will help the City build capacity to work at the neighborhood level and will support city-wide initiatives that focus on affordable housing and historic preservation.

  • Neighborhood Based Initiatives: The scope of issues confronting Trenton’s neighborhoods exceeds the resources available to address them. Moreover, the City does not have the capacity to quickly develop all the tools it needs to address every problem in every neighborhood. As a result, the City has developed a prioritized approach to building stronger neighborhoods in which revitalization investments are targeted to priority neighborhoods where they are likely to have the greatest impact. The initiatives in this section identify four types of neighborhoods and the types of policies and programs that should be implemented in those areas.

  • Affordable Housing Initiatives: Although all housing goals should be considered when working at the neighborhood level, this initiative focuses on the affordable housing actions that the City can implement city-wide.

  • Historic Preservation Initiatives: Like affordable housing, historic preservation must be integrated into neighborhood-level efforts. Nonetheless, there are also specific city-wide historic preservation actions that the City should implement. The City will likely add additional initiatives to this section when it completes its Historic Preservation Report.

  • Transportation Oriented Initiatives: The City of Trenton has a transportation network that connects it to the Mercer-Bucks region as well as the larger northeast corridor. Nonetheless, the City has not effectively capitalized on the land use potential around these assets. The initiatives in this section involve large-scale redevelopment of areas around transit and transportation. Because of their scale, however, redevelopment is also likely to involve a variety of land uses including retail, office, and commercial uses. As a result, initiatives in this section are also identified in the Economic Development and Circulation Reports.

The following background section provides context for understanding this framework. This is followed by a section that identifies the goals as well as a complete discussion of the initiatives.


The following section is based on the Trenton250 Issues and Opportunities Report, which compiled information from residents, previous plans, stakeholder interviews, and existing conditions analysis conducted by the City and its consultant team. A list of stakeholder interviewed is available in Appendix A of the Issues and Opportunities Report. The following previous plans and studies were reviewed:
  • 1999 Land Use Plan

  • 2008 Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy

  • Canal Banks Homeownership Zone Plan

  • Capital City Renaissance Plan (1989)

  • Downtown Capital District Master Plan

  • DVRPC Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy

  • Trenton Five Year Consolidated Plan for USHUD

  • Historic Preservation Plan

  • NJ Transit – Transit Friendly Plan for Trenton Train Station Area

  • North 25 Park – Battle Monument Neighborhood Plan

  • Redevelopment Area Plans

  • Trenton Train Station Redevelopment Area – Station Area Analysis

Of particular importance to this Report was a comprehensive inventory of vacant and abandoned buildings that was recently prepared by the City in conjunction with Isles. Shortly thereafter, New Jersey Community Capital completed a neighborhood conditions study, Laying the Foundations for Strong Neighborhoods, which contains valuable data on housing market conditions. Together, these two datasets are valuable tools that can be leveraged to make more informed decisions about housing policy. The following analysis builds on that work.
Vacancy and Abandonment
As outlined in the Laying the Foundations for Strong Neighborhoods study, some Trenton neighborhoods have high concentrations of abandonment and vacancy. Specific sub-neighborhoods with the highest vacancy rates include Miller/Wall with a vacancy rate of 40%, Central West 2 (33.5%), Wilbur 1 (30.3%), North Trenton 3 (28.6%), and Hanover Academy (27.3%). There are a variety of reasons for Trenton's vacant housing situation, including housing location, an aging population that cannot maintain the housing stock, the cost of home maintenance, the size of housing, ownership issues, and politics. In addition, many neighborhoods in Trenton face other problems including a low home-ownership rate, high rate of investor-owned properties (many of which have problem landlords), low median sales prices, high tax delinquencies, and high rates of violent crime. As also discussed in Laying the Foundations for Strong Neighborhoods, there have also been a high number of foreclosures following the housing crisis, leading to significant speculative purchasing. Sub-neighborhoods with the highest foreclosure filing rates include Downtown at 52.7%, Berkeley Square at 41.3%, Hanover Academy at 40.9%, Circle F at 37.7%, and Chambersburg 3 at 33.2%. (See Figure 1: Mortgage Foreclosure Map)
Market-Rate Housing
Combined, this weak market discourages people with higher spending power to live in Trenton. Very little quality market-rate housing exists in the city. Furthermore, Trenton's housing stock in many neighborhoods does not appeal to middle and upper-income people due to its quality, size, location, and features. Quality housing that does exist, particularly for-sale housing, is limited to a few specific neighborhoods, creating a short supply. Qualified prospective homeowners are scarce as well.
Rental housing in Trenton is in poorer condition than owner-occupied housing and far more predominant, often located in concentrations that lead to deteriorated neighborhoods. Safety is a concern in these areas as well, which can lead to further property value decline and abandonment as well as a reluctance to invest in market-rate housing. Furthermore, the City lacks the capacity to inspect properties and enforce their proper maintenance to help improve these conditions.
Affordable Housing
Affordable housing consists of two types – deed-restricted affordable housing and housing that is affordable to low-income residents. Deed-restricted housing cannot legally be sold or rented, for a certain period of time, to households with incomes at or below 80% of area median income (AMI). Trenton has an excessive amount of deed-restricted affordable housing as a proportion of total housing stock and regional "fair share." Using data from the NJ Department of Community Affairs Division of Codes and Standards, the NJ Housing Mortgage Finance Agency, and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the city has identified 8,282 deed-restricted affordable units in the City of Trenton, or 24% of the city’s housing stock. Despite its prominence, there is still too little affordable housing to meet the needs of some Trenton residents due to high rates of poverty, particularly the very poor with incomes at or below 30% AMI. Approximately 1/3 of these households are spending greater than 50% of their incomes on housing, according to the 2010-2015 Trenton Five-Year Consolidated Plan. Furthermore, Trenton's deed-restricted affordable housing is often low in quality and poorly maintained. The City has limited resources to address its deed-restricted affordable housing situation. However, new market-rate housing in Trenton can also be affordable for residents of relatively modest income levels, relieving the City of this burden. Whether through deed-restricted or market-rate housing, affordability must be preserved as the city grows and neighborhoods improve so that the housing needs of all types of households can be accommodated. This will ensure the continued diversity of Trenton’s neighborhoods.
Historic Neighborhoods
Despite these challenges, one of City of Trenton’s greatest assets is its historic urban form and the buildings that define that form. This ranges from historic homes to landmark buildings which played an important role in the history of the city, state and country. Homes range from those built early in the colonial era (1700s), the industrial revolution, as well as contemporary housing. These historic neighborhoods are unique within the Central Jersey region. They are often quite walkable, characterized by smaller streets, and generally have high-quality construction. As such, they are an asset to the city and - if leveraged properly - could attract moderate to high-income residents with the disposable incomes necessary to maintain these homes.


Overall Housing: Trenton will provide a variety of quality for-sale and rental options for households of all types and residents at all income levels
Vacancy and Abandonment: All of Trenton's neighborhoods will have no abandoned housing units, with vacancy rates equal to or better than those of Mercer County
Market-Rate Housing: Trenton will have a strong housing market and will be perceived as a choice location for residency
Affordable Housing: Trenton will continue to provide its regional fair share of affordable housing
Historic Neighborhoods: Trenton's housing stock will be well-maintained and its historic fabric protected