LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS FOR STRONG NEIGHBORHOODS
A Market-Oriented Assessment
Prepared by New Jersey Community Capital, the Center for Community Progress, Isles, Inc., and the Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies at Rutgers University - Newark.
The purpose of this report is twofold: to look at conditions and trends in the City of Trenton and its neighborhoods, and to explore the strategic options available to city government and other stakeholders to address the challenges the city is facing.
The report is a market-oriented assessment: since the housing market is a major factor affecting neighborhood outcomes, it is important to understand how that market is working to find the right strategies that will strengthen each neighborhood.
We analyzed a variety of housing market indicators in this report. A detailed information note on the indicators is here.
Median sales price
Percentage of home sales going to investors
Mortgage foreclosure filings
Tax delinquency (outstanding tax sale certificates)
Percentage of tax liens bought by investors
We looked at these indicators separately, to get a sense of trends, and also combined them into an overall housing market index for each neighborhood -- "Strong", "Moderately Strong", "Weak", and "Very Weak".
WHAT WE FOUND
Trenton’s neighborhoods and subareas divide into roughly equal thirds: the housing market in 19 areas is strong or moderately strong; in 18 areas it is weak; and in 18 it is very weak.
Strong market areas tend to be a combination of historically or architecturally distinguished pockets (Mill Hill, Cadwalader Heights and Fisher-Richey-Perdicaris) and areas at the city’s edges, such as Glen Afton, two sub-areas of North Trenton, and Villa Park. Even so, some of these areas, particularly Villa Park, are showing trends that should be carefully monitored to prevent possible future decline.
Moderately strong market areas tend to be areas that are either at the city’s edges, such as Hillcrest or Franklin Park, or adjacent to strong areas, such as the subsections of Chambersburg or Wilbur adjacent to Villa Park. In contrast to the strong areas, most of the moderately strong areas show signs of weakness in one or more indicator, suggesting potential future difficulty.
Weak market areas include the more centrally-located neighborhoods, including most of North Trenton, Wilbur, Stuyvesant-Prospect, and East Trenton; the part of South Trenton closest to downtown; and much of Chambersburg and Chestnut Park. Some of these areas show strength in some indicators, however, suggesting potential opportunities.
WHAT THIS MEANS: TAILORED STRATEGIES
The realities of different areas mean that the most appropriate goals and strategies in different areas will vary by the area’s condition. In some areas, the goal may be to stabilize a relatively healthy neighborhood. Elsewhere, it may be to build on opportunities to re-establish a neighborhood as a viable community. In all cases, the present needs of residents as well as the longer-term goals for the area and the city must both be acknowledged and addressed.
Any strategy designed to influence property decisions will depend on the market strength of the area where it is applied. Strategies such as homesteading or efforts designed to motivate owners of vacant properties to put them back to productive use are likely to have better results in stronger market areas. Landlord strategies may be more effective in low-value areas, because landlords in those areas are likely to be able to afford to make significant improvements while still gaining a fair rate of return.
In any case, individual strategies should not be seen or carried out in isolation. Neighborhoods are complex, multifaceted entities. The ultimate goal remains to change the trajectory of Trenton's neighborhoods for the better.