New Brunswick Ranks Third in NJ For New Housing Units Permitted

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–With 707 housing units permitted between last January and last November, the Hub City is in third place among New Jersey's 565 municipalities in housing permits.

Those 707 units have a combined value of $138,163,436, making New Brunswick second-place in total value of new residential construction.

Only Toms River and Jersey City outrank New Brunswick in number of housing units allowed to be built with permits issued in 2014. In total value of permitted units, New Brunswick is second only to Jersey City.

Middlesex County was in fifth place for housing permits, among New Jersey's 27 counties. More than half of the permitted units in New Jersey came from just five counties: Hudson, Bergen, Ocean, Essex, and Middlesex.

The Hub City has seen tremendous growth in recently-completed highrise apartment buildings, particularly near the city's train station.

Highrises such as The Vue and The George have gone up thanks to a partnership between New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO) and Philadelphia-based Pennrose Properties.

Now, near the historic Rutgers University campus, DEVCO is working on several massive housing and academic buildings for the school as part of a public-private partnership.

Another key player, Boraie Development is almost ready to open its latest highrise at 135 Somerset Street.  That building drew criticism when NBC New York reported its construction was aided by $4.8 million in federal disaster relief funds intended to benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Meanwhile, construction has begun on another large site in downtown New Brunswick, where the Matrix company plans to open a luxury rental building of its own, and company based on Long Island has been planning for years to build a 22-story highrise on New Street.

For more than 20 years, Russell Tepper worked to develop real estate projects for Cranbury-based Matrix company, which owns several key properties in downtown New Brunswick.

Now, Tepper is the senior managing director for the Northeast wing of  Mill Creek Residential, a development company based in Dallas, Texas.  Mill Creek is currently developing rental apartments in Morristown, and has bought an old warehouse in Jersey City, intending to remake it into a luxury apartment building.

Tepper's new company is betting that the ongoing desire, among empty-nesters and millennials, for urban residences near transit will continue to bolster the housing market in New Jersey.

"Every community that's been built in Jersey City and most of northern New Jersey has leased up very quickly," Tepper told the Bergen Record, noting that "for so many years, so little supply was being brought to market." 

Statewide, two out of every five new units permitted are single-family homes, but only 1.1% of the new dwellings permitted in New Brunswick are single-family homes.

By comparison, neighboring Edison ranked 126th among the municipalities for number of units, with 45 units permitted during the same time period, all of them single-family homes.

New Jersey has seen a boost in residential construction permits, with 25,451 total units permitted between January and November, 15% more than the previous same period in 2013.

Building permits, rather than housing "starts," have been used as a measure of residential development because the government does not keep a record of housing starts at the state level–only housing permits.

The housing market in the Garden State has been climbing out of a deep hole in recent years.  After the financial crisis of 2008, home construction had slowed down to a sluggish 13,000 per year, the lowest rate since the Second World War. 

Most of the multifamily units are rentals, with home ownership on the decline since the housing bubble burst and banks subsequently tightened their lending practices.  Flat incomes and high student debt burdens have also added to the shift from homeownership to rentals.

One economist, Patrick O' Keefe, of the accounting company CohnReznick, noted that permits for multifamily dwellings have tapered off after last summer, and he speculated that this slowdown was because developers were concerned about a potential glut of apartments.

However, O' Keefe predicts that Northern New Jersey will continue to see benefits from New York City's high prices.

North Jersey housing is generally cheaper than apartments in the Big Apple, but it's close enough that New York workers often want to live in North Jersey.  O'Keefe told the Record that he also sees New Jersey housing permits rising slightly this year, to around 30,000 units.