Summit Common Council welcomes new administrative agent for affordable housing

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SUMMIT, NJ — During the Summit Common Council meeting on Monday, Nov. 15, council members welcomed Marc Leckington of Leckington Advisors as its new affordable housing administrative assistant.

Matthew DiLauri, the administrative manager of the Department of Community Services and municipal housing liaison, introduced Leckington during the meeting. Leckington was appointed to the position in July. Leckington is the vice president of Affordable Housing Professionals in New Jersey and teaches in Rutgers University’s Affordable Housing Professionals Certification program.

“I basically provide consulting services on administrative agent issues of affordable housing portfolios,” Leckington said during the presentation, “helping design affordable housing programs to comply with the Mount Laurel Doctrine. I spend a lot of time doing forensic analysis of older programs and trying to improve them and bring them up to current best practices and standards, in addition to serving as the sole employee and president of Leckington Advisors.”

Leckington said the position of Summit administrative agent is a good fit. He said DiLauri has been a pleasure to work with, the Summit Housing Authority has been very forthcoming with passing files along and they’ve hit the ground running.

“We’ve occupied our first unit with our first tenant. A lovely woman from South Orange who grew up here, ended up moving away and was very anxious to come back,” he continued. “One of the most exciting things that I get to do as an administrative agent is to call these people that have been sitting on a waiting list. She’s been on the waiting list for almost three years. The excitement I heard in her voice when I told her I had a brand new unit in Summit for her, it made my day and I think I made her day as well.”

Councilman Greg Vartan asked Leckington to describe what the process is for people who are interested in getting affordable housing in Summit.

“There’s a very distinct and separate process between what the Housing Authority follows, and there’s the Mount Laurel Doctrine. The regulations still sit at the state of New Jersey, and they do borrow some commonality between the two, but they are very different,” Leckington said. “We basically just improved the webpage that already existed, made it a little more user-friendly and a little less technical. We’ve embedded a smart sheet form directly into the page, so that after a brief introduction and a little understanding of how the income levels fall on the current day, there’s a form they will fill out and there’s about eight or 10 questions, so the level of investment is relatively easy. We received a little feedback from the first draft and made a few tweaks to the language and, without any real marketing push, people have discovered this page, and 17 people have signed up to be added to the waiting list.”

Those on the list will be randomly selected when housing appropriate to their situation becomes available.

“I hesitate to use the word lottery, because there’s nothing to be won other than an opportunity,” he continued. “On average, they’ve broken them up into six different lists to align them with one, two and three bedrooms, and then low and moderate income. So these people would be tagged onto the end of those lists. Generally, there’s as many as 50 people and maybe even more in some cases that have already expressed interest, have done this pre-application and have been part of a random selection. The one saving grace though, is in my efforts to find a viable tenant for this one unit that came up recently. It took me about six or eight people on the list to get to someone that was well-aligned with the unit. While 50 sounds like a lot, it may go pretty quickly for some and maybe not for others.”

Leckington encouraged attendees to check out the webpage and give any feedback they deemed appropriate regarding how it was set up.

“We are overjoyed with the transparency by which this exists … (and) the care that Matt put into this,” Councilwoman Susan Hairston said during the presentation. “We have a way of keeping track of them and you have introduced a very orderly process, so I just want to applaud your efforts.”

“This has been an issue that has been going on for some time and this needed a lot of attention,” Councilman B. David Naidu said during the presentation. Councilwoman (Beth) Little absolutely spearheaded this. Councilman Vartan picked it up from there to do this. I love the fact that you’re talking about best practices. (We) really need to figure out what we should be doing, in addition to where we are right now, (and) improve it. Also, look at units that previously were supposed to be affordable and are they affordable now. … Is it being filled with the right people for those units and then keep it going forward.”