CRANFORD, NJ — They occupied the walkway with lawn chairs and blankets, wearing jackets, coats and backpacks.
They weren’t parents lining up for Black Friday sales, or teenagers hoping to get ticket to a concert. Instead they were seniors, staked outside the Edward K. Gill Apartment Building on Meeker Avenue in Cranford with hopes of obtaining a place to call home.
The highly sought after senior housing building, subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is a five-story complex with 131 units designated for older Americans. The building contains both one- and two-bedroom apartments.
The doors to the apartment building opened around approximately 7 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 11, initiating an open enrollment period. Some had been waiting for hours, others more than a day.
Following the opening of doors, seniors eagerly filed in with their numbers and applications in hand.
Frank Murphy, a current resident of the apartment complex, told LocalSource while waiting on line that he was trying to apply to the other side of the building because the rent is cheaper than what he pays now.
Although he arrived at 5 a.m., Murphy said others had arrived as early as 11 p.m. Saturday night, to claim the front of the line.
The last open enrollment occurred six years ago in 2011, and works on a first-come, first-served basis; those who hand in their applications first are placed at the top of the waiting list. Upon the opening of vacancies, people at the top are granted housing.
Cranford Housing told LocalSource in a phone interview on Wednesday, Sept. 6, that it is common for people to line up outside the office 24 hours in advance of open enrollment period. The period spans two weeks and will end at 5 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 25.
People are “incredulous about the wait list and are excited that we’ve opened
the list,” Cindy Rabinowitz, director of Cranford Senior Housing, said in email on Sept. 8.
While approximately 450 applications were sent out on Thursday, Sept. 7, Santa Carlin, the project specialist for Cranford Senior Housing, told LocalSource it was unclear how many people would sleep outside.
“The Cranford Police is aware of the open enrollment and (planned to do) a drive-by during their shifts throughout the weekend,” Rabinowitz said.
In order to be considered for housing, applicants must satisfy certain requirements. Applicants must be 62 years and older, and not exceed the maximum annual income. For an individual the maximum is $47,600 and for a couple it’s $54,400. This year, preferences will be given to honorably discharged veterans.
According to the website, some or all of the monthly rents at the property are based on tenant incomes.
The rent is set up that tenants will make a monthly contribution toward rent equal to 30 percent of their adjusted income. There is a minimum tenant contribution of $25 for all rents at the property, regardless of tenant income.