Jewish Federation Towers, one of five senior housing properties owned by the Jewish Community Housing Corporation, was sold Feb. 19 to James Carmichael, a private developer.
The low-income housing complex in Irvington, which has been home to some 140 older adults for the past 30 years, has been renamed the Irvington Senior Apartments.
JCHC said it would use the proceeds from the sale to develop other affordable housing options.
“Right now, the resources available to develop low-income housing are so limited we felt we needed our own source of funds to assist us to acquire land or to take steps on our own to provide badly needed affordable housing,” said JCHC’s chief executive officer Harold Colton-Max. “We have long waiting lists, and this will give us the ability to undertake other development projects.”
Under the terms of the sale agreement, all current employees of Federation Towers will keep their jobs and all current tenants will keep their apartments.
“Nobody’s rent will be going up,” said Colton-Max in a Feb. 25 phone interview. “The new owners will either continue or allow us to continue existing programs we provide to residents, including transportation and social services. Everything we did to provide our residents with a good quality of life will continue to be done, either by the new owners or federated agencies including the Jewish Family Service and Jewish Vocational Service of MetroWest.
“In fact, we have already had meetings with our agencies and the new ownership to facilitate that relationship,” Colton-Max said. “We would not have sold it to somebody who would not have maintained it this way.”
Colton-Max declined to discuss the terms of the sale, but said the building was not losing money.
“That is not why we sold it,” he said. “We are taking the equity that was locked up in the building and using it to provide quality affordable housing elsewhere which we couldn’t do otherwise.”
Colton-Max said none of the JCHC’s four other properties are up for sale.
“By selling it we were able to ensure the building would remain as affordable housing for low-income seniors and the elderly disabled for the next 20 years,” said Colton-Max, who last month was named president of The Affordable Housing Professionals of New Jersey. “That is 10 years longer than we were required to do so under our existing agreement with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.”
Prior to the sale, Colton-Max said he visited low-income housing properties Carmichael owns and operates in Camden and Hartford, Conn.
“We wanted to make sure we were working with somebody who knew what he was doing,” he said. “He has over 2,000 units throughout the country.”
In a Feb. 25 phone interview from his headquarters in Memphis, Tenn., Carmichael described the purchase of Federation Towers as “a bread-and-butter transaction for us.”
He said his company plans to apply for tax credits “so we can rehabilitate the asset for the long term with physical improvements to the project. The building is in good condition, but it is 30 years old. It is not as if there are holes in the roof and leaky faucets and mold in bathrooms. It has been well-managed. But there is financing [so] we can take a 1982 year of completion building and bring it to the modern day,” he explained.
Carmichael said the Irvington residence was the fourth building he has purchased from a Jewish federation — having previously bought two apartment houses in Tampa, Fla., and one in Pittsburgh. “We made no changes,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is to have residents age in place in safe, quiet, clean, affordable housing.”
In terms of retaining the “Jewish character of the building,” Colton-Max said, there are a “very small number” of Jewish residents.
JCHC is an agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.
“I don’t know ultimately what he will do about the religious character of the building,” said Colton-Max, referring to Carmichael. “There are mezuzas in the building and it is my understanding they will keep them up. But I suspect they may be inclined to do things that are not of a Jewish character,” such as decorations for Christian holidays.
Because Federation Towers had no meal program, “there was no question of kashrut,” he said.
The JCHC executive said residents have been aware of the sale since last September, when they met with the new owner.
“He even went to each apartment and introduced himself,” Colton-Max said. “I feel this is going to be a seamless transition.”