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Camden’s real estate is surging. Some say they’ll be pushed out.

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Long one of New Jersey’s poorest cities, Camden has seen housing prices leap in recent years, prompting concerns that low-income residents could be priced out.

According to Zillow, home values in most of Camden topped $100K in May — an increase of over $50,000 in recent years.

Like many cities in the state and country, Camden saw home prices skyrocket after the coronavirus pandemic. But even with the uptick in home costs, the city — well known for its popular commercial and entertainment district on the waterfront — remains one of the most affordable, with the lowest average property taxes in the state.

By comparison, a 1,300-square-foot, three-bedroom home that goes for $185,000 in Camden might cost $325,000 in neighboring Cherry Hill, $295,000 in New Brunswick, or $725,000 in Jersey City, according to Zillow listings.

This property at 817 9th St. is a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home on a 1,159-square-foot lot that sold for $185,000 in November.

Still, the median household income for Camden’s 71,100 residents is $37,075, less than half the $96,346 statewide; only 37% of residents own their homes; and according to the state Department of Education, over half the district’s students are considered economically disadvantaged — 4.1% of them homeless.

It’s why the skyrocketing real estate prices worry Camden residents like Harvey Cutts, who sees first-hand how the changes are affecting things like rents.

Cutts, 62, is in the market for a new apartment because the owner sold the home he rented with a roommate. He was shocked to find that a one-bedroom apartment would cost $1,200 to $1,400 a month to rent, compared to $600 to $800 a few years ago.

“It’s disheartening,” Cutts said. “They build up our city, but they build up our city for others to come into our city. We’re priced out.”

The increases have also drawn concerns from real estate agents and affordable housing advocates.

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“If anyone is still in that mentality of a $65,000 house cost, you know they’re gonna really be shocked,” said Linda Jones, a housing coordinator for the nonprofit Heart of Camden, which helps create affordable housing in the city.

Keith Greaves, a real estate agent in Camden for about 20 years, said he’s selling homes for $145,000 to $180,000 and has received multiple offers on individual properties.

“There is no question that the prices of homes are affecting people’s ability to purchase because incomes have not kept up with the appreciation of home values over the years,” he said. “So, it’s no question that people’s purchasing power has diminished.”

This property at 1012 S. 6th St. is a two-bedroom, one-bathroom home on a 610-square-foot lot listed for $225,000 in Camden, New Jersey, on Monday, July 1, 2024.

Once ridiculed as one of the most dangerous cities in America, Camden has sought to revitalize for years — efforts that have seen some successes but have also been plagued by accusations of corruption.

According to 2011 Census figures, 42.5% of Camden’s population lived in poverty. Back then, blighted, abandoned homes filled neighborhoods. Just over half the students, 52.5%, graduated high school, and the violent crime rate was among the highest in the state.

But things started to change over a decade ago when state, county, and city officials began efforts to revitalize the city, refocusing policing, decreasing crime, and giving tax incentives to businesses and developers, Dan Keashan, Camden County’s director of public affairs, said.

Since then, the homicide rate has dropped by 70%, and overall crime is down by 45%, Keashen said.

Reducing crime has “provided a real boost to value in neighborhoods,” he said. “It’s allowed more residents and members of the community to be outside of their homes, utilizing parks, public places.”

The city has also lured big businesses and developers through tax credits. In 2015, the Philadelphia 76ers training facility received an $82 million tax credit from the state Economic Development Authority to build on the Camden Waterfront. In 2018, Subaru relocated its corporate headquarters from Cherry Hill to Camden and received $118 million in state tax breaks. The state’s Economic Development Authority also approved an $830 million plan to redevelop Camden’s waterfront, including more green spaces, walkways, and additional public transit.

“We’ve seen more than $3 billion in private and public investment throughout the City of Camden,” Keashan said. “And that has been everything from building new corporate campuses to what the current mayor has done, which is a historic investment in the roadway infrastructure within the city.

In addition to reduced crime and significant investment, high school graduation rates are up — 64.7% of seniors graduated from high school last school year — and Camden is no longer the poorest city in the nation. It’s dropped to 8th in the country with a poverty rate of 29.8%.

Still, Camden’s rebirth hasn’t been without problems. Camden’s redevelopment story took center stage earlier this month after the state attorney general’s office indicted South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross and others, charging they hijacked New Jersey’s economic development legislation and used extortion to obtain properties and property rights on the Camden waterfront for themselves — along with millions in associated tax incentive credits.

Attorney General Matt Platkin said the crimes harmed Camden’s residents, businesses, and nonprofits. Norcross and his attorneys vehemently…

Read More: Camden’s real estate is surging. Some say they’ll be pushed out.

2024-07-10 04:06:00

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