Newark is trying to make it easier for residents to find affordable housing amid the city’s building boom.
The city last week launched a free online search engine that allows apartment seekers to enter the range of rents they can afford, the number of bedrooms they need and other criteria, to produce an interactive map with the corresponding locations.
The search engine, Finding accommodation in Newarkincludes subsidized private and public properties and all sites owned by the Newark Housing Authority.
“I am committed to producing and preserving more affordable housing, so that more individuals and families can establish or strengthen their roots in Newark,” Mayor Ras Baraka said in a statement.
“Part of that mission is to make it easier for people to find the kind of affordable housing they need. No matter where I go in Newark, people will approach me and ask for help finding an affordable home. This housing locator will help fill a void that has existed for a long time,” the statement read.
Officials say the search engine also benefits developers and landlords looking to market their properties to the general public or specific types of renters, including veterans, seniors or people with disabilities.
Officials hope the search engine will help Newark residents and others benefit from the accelerated construction of new downtown apartment towers and smaller construction and rehabilitation projects across the city. At the same time, Newark faces a shortage of affordable housing, and the city has encouraged the development of market-priced housing while making the creation of affordable units a condition of such projects.
For example, this spring the mayor and council expanded an inclusive zoning ordinance to require that 20% of units in apartment buildings of 15 or more units be set aside for low- and middle-income people, after the law previously only applied to buildings with 30 or more units.
The new housing search engine includes a basic search function with three criteria: rent range, number of bathrooms and number of bedrooms. There is also an advanced option to narrow a search to more specific characteristics, including housing type, where the 19 menu options range from assisted living, triplex, shared housing/roommate situation, park of mobile homes.
Other criteria include smoking or non-smoking, distance to public transport and language spoken by the owner.
Users can navigate through their search results by clicking an icon depicting each match on a city map, revealing photographs, a contact number and other information. Or, users can scroll a column to the right of the screen containing the same photos and information.
The search engine is supported by a personal helpline that house hunters can call toll-free from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 877-428-8844.
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Steve Strunsky can be reached at [email protected]