MARGATE – The Planning Board is seeking ways to make purchasing real estate affordable for young families and other year-round residents. The board has established an ad hoc advisory committee to investigate ways to attract year-round residents to the city.
Planning Board Chairman Richard Patterson said he and some of the committee members got together on their own to discuss the issue and passed on their findings to the city. However, when Administrator Richard Deaney received their initial recommendations, he asked the board to formalize the committee and investigate the issue further.
“We thought it would be a one-and-done…but he wanted us to form a committee as an advisory group to the Planning Board,” Patterson said at the Jan. 30 meeting.
A growing family cannot afford to purchase new construction in the city, which could cost from $750,000 to $1 million or more, but it might be able to afford an older home in neighborhoods away from the beach, he said.
“The committee will look at ways to make the city more family friendly. It’s not a matter of lowering prices, it’s showing you can buy $150,000 more house in Margate with the same monthly payment.”
Patterson said the committee may be able to come up with some solutions for the declining year-round population.
According to realtor.com, there are currently 301 houses for sale in Margate at prices ranging from $98,000 to $5.9 million, with the median list price at $650,000. The median sold price was $734,500 in 2019.
With the increase in non-resident home ownership, the city schools have seen a substantial decline in enrollment over the last 10 years. The Margate school district had 560 students enrolled in grades K-8 10 years ago and has about 360 students today.
The situation is not unique to Margate, Zoning Officer Roger McLarnon said. Year-round residency is dropping in many shore communities, including Brigantine and Ocean City.
Margate was not immune to the downturn in the casino industry. Many casino executives and two wage-earner families who called Margate home moved out when several Atlantic City casinos closed. According to a recent article in NJ.com, since the Great Recession of 2008, Margate lost 26% of its year-round residents. Brigantine and Ocean City also made the NJ.com Top 20 Shrinking Towns list.
According to the article, Margate had 6,304 permanent residents a dozen years ago, but lost 2,221 of them since then.
None of the information garnered by the sub-committee will be binding on the Planning Board or the city, Patterson said.
According to McLarnon, the recommendation to stabilize home ownership is part of the city’s Master Plan.
“There are a lot of outside factors involved and we are going to see what we can do from a planning and zoning perspective to do what you want to do,” he told board members.
Patterson said the city could come up with a program that could help year-round residents with the initial cost of home ownership, including assisting with down payments.
“We are in a symbiotic relationship with the summer residents, because if year-round residents go down past the tipping point, we’ll lose amenities,” such as businesses that operate throughout the year, Patterson said.
The committee may target a specific area that hasn’t seen much rebuilding – the area between Amherst and Bayshore avenues, and between Argyle and Essex avenues.
“The area is comprised of single-family homes that were built in the 1960s,” McLarnon said.
And the land mass is fairly high at elevation 8-9 feet, he said.
Members of the committee include a cross-section of individuals with different backgrounds who live in different neighborhoods in the city, Patterson said.
The committee members include Patterson, attorney Eric Goldstein, dentist and Board of Education member Joel Frankel, businessmen Lou Friedman and Michael Collins, Brian Hiltner, real estate marketing professional Dana Hiltner, and North Jersey businessman Bob Huey.
McLarnon said increasing density could help drive down the cost of purchasing a home, he said.
He estimates the cost of a buildable lot in Margate is between $300,000 and $400,000, with the cost of older buildings worth much less.
Homebuyers looking to fix up an older home have to deal with the 50% rule, he said.
“If a homeowner makes improvements worth more than 50% of the value of a non-compliant home, they have to elevate the house according to FEMA standards, which adds to the cost,” he said.
A mortgage lender also requires a home have flood insurance, which could be as high as $25,000 a year if the house is below the elevation set by FEMA.
McLarnon said another option could be to increase events and activities during the shoulder season to encourage out-of-town residents to spend more time in Margate.
“They buy these expensive homes and only stay there eight weekends during the summer,” he said.
McLarnon said holding more special events and the soon-to-be erected bayside water park might encourage summer residents to stay in town weekdays during summer.
“There are no parking problems during the weekdays,” he said.