Manitou Park Neighborhood Revitalization and Homes For All Receives 2014 Excellence in Housing and Economic Development Award

Posted on: September 8th, 2014 by Jeffrey Miller No Comments

Manitou Park Neighborhood Revitalization

09.08.2014 — The Manitou Park Neighborhood Revitalization project, a new affordable housing community located in Toms River, New Jersey, recently received a 2014 Excellence in Housing and Economic Development Award from the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA). Designed by Kitchen & Associates of Collingswood, New Jersey, the Manitou Park project was divided into two phases, and when complete, will offer the local community a total of 166 newly-constructed or rehabilitated units of affordable housing intended for homeownership. The project was recognized by NJHMFA as a leading example in housing-related redevelopment efforts throughout the state, winning in the category of Leading Housing Revitalization Award (Homeownership). This year’s honorees will receive their awards at the 2014 Governor’s Conference on Housing and Economic Development on September 22-23, 2014 in Atlantic City.

“Breaking the cycle of poverty begins by working to provide some of the basic necessities of life, including decent and affordable food, housing and water.”

—Water 2000, The US Department of Agriculture

The Manitou Park Neighborhood is located in an historically depressed area of Toms River, New Jersey, and for years had suffered from a lack of investment in both the local housing stock and infrastructure—with failing septic and well water systems a common occurrence throughout the community in the early part of the 2000s.

“It all started with a glass of water,” Mayor Jason J. Verano said, referring to the revitalization efforts undertaken by the Berkeley and Toms River Townships targeted at the Manitou Park neighborhood and surrounding community, and the watershed moment that led them there. While Homes For All employees were installing a newly donated heating system in a local resident’s home, they were surprised to see that the water this homeowner offered them to drink was gray and murky. Further research led Homes For All to discover that the majority of wells in the area were failing or on the verge of failing, and results from subsequent water testing revealed that the water quality throughout the community was marginal at best.

In reaction to these findings, Homes For All—a Toms River-based non-profit affordable housing developer—sought to do something about the lack of modern utilities in the community. Recognizing an opportunity to make a difference for many local residents, Home For All worked to assist in the re-connection of much of the neighborhood to these basic and essential services, as well as aid in laying the groundwork for a longer-term, more profound revitalization of the area. In partnership with the local townships of Berkeley and Toms River, as well as New Jersey Natural Gas and the United States Department of Agriculture, Homes For All led a two-phase process over four years to reclaim this once-blighted area and reintegrate it, on both an infrastructure and psychological level, with the surrounding Toms River environs and local community. Phase I of the project was aimed directly at reestablishing connectivity of the neighborhood’s existing properties with local utilities, and upgrading those services to modern standards. It also focused on the creation of 52 new single-family homes, as well as the rehabilitation of 23 existing properties. Phase II of the project built an additional 30 residences, along with the rehabilitation of 61 existing homes.

At a cost of nearly $20 million, and over a decade in the making, the revitalization of the Manitou Park Neighborhood represents what can be achieved when public and private agencies work together to solve real-world issues affecting the quality of life of residents within their local communities. Manitou Park is making a real difference in the lives of close to 200 families, offering them new, modern and affordable housing opportunities, as well as the possibility of a brighter future for their children and generations to follow.


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