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The long battle about affordable housing in New Jersey has seen some major movement over the past month as compared to years of inactivity. And, as of last week, the Fair Share Housing Center has come forth with their estimation of the affordable housing obligations for each municipality. Depending on where you live or how optimistic had been, the numbers may be surprising.

Currently, municipalities are within a 90-day window of reprieve during which they can determine their legal course of action, which Hopewell Township intending to file a declaratory judgment presenting to the court the efforts to satisfy already existing (as well as projected future) affordable housing obligations as identified in prior rounds. 

For the full explanation of the affordable housing landscape, check out COAH in 90 seconds: Making housing accessible, or Affordabullsh*t?

Procedurally, this whole affordable housing enchilada is being handled by in New Jersey Superior Courts after the New Jersey Supreme Court’s March 10th ruling that, due to inaction of COAH (Counsel on Affordable Housing) and COAH’s inability to adopt rules and regulation regarding affordable housing obligations, the courts will now take on the role of establishing municipal affordable housing obligations and compliance.

At the March 14 Hopewell Township Committee meeting, Township officials discussed their possible numbers, with Hopewell Township’s number being be upwards of 1400 units of affordable housing (minus 70 units from Project Freedom and also possibly minus units in compensation for money owed from the state to the Township.)

“I don’t want anyone to think that that number has any validity — because we don’t know whether it has validity,” said Hopewell Township Mayor Harvey Lester at the March meeting. “It is hard to answer questions where there are precious few answers at this point.”

But now some of the answers are upon us from The Fair Share Housing Center, the public interest organization entirely devoted to defending the housing rights of New Jersey’s poor through enforcement of the Mount Laurel Doctrine, the landmark decision that prohibits economic discrimination through exclusionary zoning and requires all towns to provide their “fair share” of their region’s need for affordable housing, according to their website.

“This [chart] reflects our calculations of what the need for affordable homes for the period 1999-2025,” said Kevin Walsh, Associate Director of the Fair Share Housing Center. “The law requires municipalities to use their zoning powers to attempt to provide opportunities for enough affordable homes to meet these projections. But we also know that it may take a few decades for those units to be developed and it depends in part on what private-sector developers do.”

According to the Fair Share Housing Center, the following are the obligations for the municipalities in Mercer County:

mercer county obligations

The Fair Share Housing Center will be applying at 1000 unit cap for the Third Round (as per N.J.S.A. 52:27D-307(e)) therefore Hopewell Township’s Third Round obligation is 1000 units.

For smaller municipalities the numbers might be more shocking — Princeton at 630, Hopewell Borough at 155, and Pennington with 203.

“A lot of municipalities will be able to meet their obligations without much effort,” said Walsh. “Others will not be able to do so through development and redevelopment and can have their obligations adjusted downward to account for that during the process in which trial courts review municipal plans.”

Hopewell Township’s planning board is meeting tonight at 7PM with affordable housing on the agenda.

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Mary Galioto
Mary Galioto is the founder, publisher and editor of MercerMe, and a lawyer. Originally from Brooklyn, Mary has progressively moved deeper and deeper into New Jersey, settling in the heart of the state: Mercer County. Formerly the author of an embarrassingly informal blog, Mary is a lifelong writer and asker of questions and was even mentioned, albeit briefly, in the New York Times and Washington Post. In her free time, Mary fills her life with mild germaphobia, excessive self-reflection, enthusiastic television viewing, and misguided adventures in random hobbies.

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