Glut of 55-and-older communities leaves N.J. developers looking to lift age restrictions

    A weak housing market means developers in New Jersey are having trouble selling units in 55-and-over retirement communities.

    Now, some of the efforts to open them up to people of all ages are facing resistance.

     

    Attorney Jack Plackter said there is such a glut of senior housing in parts of South Jersey, it would take several years for condos and apartments already on the market to sell.

    “Many of the seniors that were the target for these projects are unable to sell their existing homes because of the economy,” Plackter said. “And they’re also electing to age in place rather than buy these units.”

    Plackter represents “Visions at the Shore,” a senior community near Atlantic City that has 42 age-restricted units and the development rights to 400 more.

    He is petitioning the local zoning board to lift the age restrictions. If he succeeds, some current residents say they will fight back.

    “We bought into an age-restricted community for a purpose,” said resident Muriel Vargo. “If we had wanted to live in a non-age-restricted community, we all would have bought into that.”

    A 2009 New Jersey law gave developers with empty retirement communities two years to apply to their zoning boards to lift that age restriction.

    Anthony Cappuccio is one of the developers of Absecon Gardens, a condo complex about seven miles from Atlantic City, which is looking to take advantage of that law.

    “We’re told by all the experts that the absorption factor in the state of New Jersey was over 19 years for senior housing,” Cappuccio said. “In our county alone, it was about nine years. Ones that have already been built here, when they have vacancies, (they) stay vacant forever.”

    A small group of neighbors is challenging the zoning board’s decision to allow the age restriction to be lifted, suing in state appeals court last week.

    They say allowing families and children into the building will increase congestion and burden city infrastructure and schools.

    The condo company, which had planned to start selling units this summer, fears the suit will delay that.

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