As of Friday, March 14, there were at least two affordable apartments available on Palmer Square. Renting for between $821.03 and $885.03, plus utilities, they range in size from small to minuscule at 888 to 260 square feet, but you can’t beat the location.

Offered on a first come, first served basis, the apartments may be leased by now, but there is a way to get in line for other affordable rental apartments, and even to specify a particular location. These Palmer Square apartments, along with many others in New Jersey towns, including Franklin, Greenbrook, Bernards, and Hillsborough, are leased through the Somerset County Coalition on Affordable Housing (SCCOAH). The non-profit, which has relationships with a number of towns, offers a services for those who want to rent affordable apartments and who want help in purchasing affordable houses.

Potential renters and home buyers need to be certified before the organization can match them up with apartments. In the case of renters, this involves meeting income limits, passing credit checks, and possibly criminal checks, and having a certain number of people in the household.

The bar is set at different heights in different towns, each of which can determine what constitutes "low income" and what constitutes "moderate income." In Princeton low income for a single person comes out to between $19,000 and $28,716. Meanwhile, moderate income for a single person is set at between $28,717 and $45,946. For a couple the moderate income range is $32,818 to $52,509.

Other standards are set by each individual landlord. Generally, a credit score of 650 or above is required, but that can vary. Sometimes a co-signer will be allowed to help a person with a lower score get into an apartment. Some landlords run a criminal check, while others don’t.

In most cases SCCOAH requires that there be two people — and not more than two people — per bedroom. In very small units, like those in Palmer Square, one person is eligible to rent. But a single person would not be able to rent a two-bedroom unit.

After potential tenants — or home buyers — are certified, SCCOAH will keep an eye out for units that fit each person or family in the area in which they want to live, and will contact certified people who have shown an interest. If more than one person wants a unit opening up, for example, on May 1 on Palmer Square, there will be a lottery to determine who gets it, with priority being given to those living in Mercer, Monmouth, or Ocean counties.

Demand generally exceeds supply.

People who want to buy an affordable unit must show that they are able to obtain a mortgage. SCCOAH helps with this, holding classes and offering counseling on the realities of home ownership, on how to establish good credit, and on nitty gritty subjects such as home inspections, home insurance, and the role of a real estate agent can play in finding a home. The non-profit even runs a program through which banks will match down payment savings by a ratio of 4-to-1.

Contact SCCOAH at 908-541-5756 for more information.

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