ATLANTIC CITY (February 6, 2020) – There are more rooming houses and tenants in the city than are allowed by law, particularly in the Tourism District, and local officials are looking for ways to rectify the issue.
The “overabundance of rooming house units” is a deterrent to development and redevelopment in Atlantic City, according to the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, the state agency with zoning and land use power in the Tourism District.
In some instances, the rooming houses also impact quality of life for neighbors and businesses because of the potential for criminal behavior and the subsequent drain on municipal resources, city officials said.
The CRDA and the city have each devised a way to deal with rooming houses that could improve the living conditions for those who live in them while simultaneously making some neighborhoods more attractive areas for development.
Mayor Marty Small Sr. has put together a code enforcement review board that will more aggressively target violators, including rooming house operators. The CRDA has proposed a conversion project for rooming houses that seeks to entice landlords and operators to either change the use of their properties, sell them or have them demolished.
“We’re here to help improve the housing stock in Atlantic City,” said CRDA Executive Director Matt Doherty. “This (conversion plan) will give us another tool at our disposal to continue to convert these rooming houses into a better form of housing stock.”
Both the number of people occupying rooming houses in Atlantic City and their proximity to one another in certain neighborhoods violate city regulations, which mirror those found in the state’s Rooming and Boarding House Act.
An exact number of rooming houses in Atlantic City varies by agency. City records show there are 43 rooming houses, while state records from the Bureau of Rooming and Boarding House Standards list 56 licensed operators. CRDA’s own inventory identifies 53 rooming houses in Atlantic City.
According to CRDA, only 30 of the city’s rooming houses have proper land-use approvals.
The city recently also has taken a stance against rooming houses that either violate public heath and safety standards or municipal codes. To date, 10 rooming houses have either been closed or demolished at the direction of the city, with some of the vacant lots being put up for public auction.
Small said both the conversion project — which he said he will vote in favor of as a CRDA board member — and the increased code enforcement will improve quality of life for residents and reduce the amount of public safety resources used by the city at some of those locations.
“I’m in favor of upgrading and converting those rooming houses to a higher standard of living for people, as well as supporting retail components,” he said.
Doherty said he would like to see some of the rooming houses transformed into mixed-use spaces, with residential and retail amenities.
The CRDA has already converted, or is in the process of converting, 13 rooming houses. The buildings have been converted to duplexes, single-family homes, apartments and commercial operations. The CRDA also recently revised land-use regulations in the Tourism District that limited conversion of existing buildings into single-family homes.
“We’re making it as easy as possible, through land use regulations, to convert these rooming houses,” he said. “And now, we are looking to supply the financial resources to support someone’s vision of changing these rooming houses.”
Residents of rooming houses have brought up concerns about being displaced if affordable living arrangements are reduced. The CRDA has said the conversion plan would include funding to assist displaced residents and the authority would work with social service agencies, such as Volunteers of America and Jewish Family Service, to help people find new homes.
A public hearing on the rooming house conversion project will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the CRDA offices on Pennsylvania Avenue. The CRDA Board of Directors will likely consider the conversion project at the authority’s public meeting Feb. 18.