Hopewell Township Affordable Housing Obligation Numbers and Locations Released

For many residents concerned about where and how many homes will be built to satisfy Hopewell Township’s affordable housing obligation, the wait is over. At the September 11th Township Committee meeting, it was determined that affordable and market rate housing will be built on the properties commonly referred to as “Woodmont,” “Zaitz,” Capital Health System (CHS), and “CF Hopewell.” This is in addition to a portion of land currently occupied by Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) and the site known as “Enourato.” In total, 653 affordable and 2,881 market rate units will be built on 1,085 acres. A sharp decline from the 1,756 affordable units litigated at trial and potential 15,804 market rate units proposed by Governor Christie.

The total number of units represents a 35% reduction from Fair Share Housing Center’s (FSHC) proposed number. FSHC (nonprofit housing advocacy group), Hopewell Township, and the landowners committed to building affordable housing on their land, reached a settlement this summer, ending a long and expensive litigation process.

In accordance with the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) second round rules, 20% of units built in Hopewell Township be affordable and the remainder, market rate.* Though most municipalities are required to build their units by 2025, Hopewell Township negotiated an unspecified date in which the units must be built. Going forward, though the Township plays a significant role in the planning process of the sites, construction milestones will largely be dependent on the individual developers. The permitting process, building the infrastructure, conducting traffic studies, etc. can all affect the project’s timeline. And, construction will be in pace with the real estate market, meaning they won’t build more than what they can successfully sell and rent.

Addressing Concerns

For years, residents have voiced fears of meeting the Township’s affordable housing obligation. Their concerns included possible negative effects on the environment, negative impact on district schools, increased traffic, higher tax burden, and decreased viewshed.

Though many things have been decided upon, many questions remain as the redevelopment plan is actively being revised by the Township’s Planning Board. Among what is known is that all of the affordable units will be rental properties and will be interspersed throughout the sites. Of the market rate units, details have yet to emerge as to what kinds of housing (i.e. single family detached, townhomes etc.) will occur on the sites.

Concerning the cost to taxpayers and fears of increased traffic, developers will absorb the cost of new roads as well as installation of water and sewer to sites. Though distribution of the increased traffic will occur across three I-95 interchanges, further management is a priority. For the “Zaitz” site (Block 85, Lots 3, 4, 5.01, 7, and 2), effort will be made to alleviate traffic congestion onto Rt. 31 by distributing it onto nearby roads.

The 61-acre “Zaitz” property includes the Pennington Shoprite, Exxon Mobil, and the wooded area behind the supermarket. Besides building 78 affordable and 301 market rate units, the plan includes extension of sewer and water to the property that is currently on septic, removal of the Exxon Mobil to relieve traffic congestion, and construction of commercial properties (similar to Hopewell Crossing Shopping Center). Potentially, the Hopewell Township Community and Senior Center, and community gardens, will be built on that site as well.

Hopewell Valley Regional School District’s ability to withstand an increased student body due to the development is another issue addressed in the plan. Though the district has 600 available seats, and is projected to see an additional increase by 200-300 due to low class sizes at the elementary level, the redevelopment plan calls for measures to mitigate the development’s effect.

On the 22-acre “Woodmont” property (Block 78.09, Lot 21), nestled within Federal City and Bull Run Roads, all 300 units (48 affordable and 252 market rate) will be rental properties. The market rate units will be advertised as luxury rentals with the intention of attracting young professionals who typically wait on starting families.

Additionally, a continuing care and rehabilitation facility and an age-restricted community, totalling 35 affordable and 350 market rate units, will be built on the grounds of CHS (Block 91, Lots 3.11, 3.14, 3.161, 3.181, 3.191, 3.22, 3.95, 3.961).

Environmental protections and viewshed considerations are also a priority realized in the redevelopment plan. Mandated setbacks and planned tree preservation will protect the viewshed, and 178 acres will remain undeveloped on the “CF Hopewell” site for the purpose of protecting Jacobs Creek. “CF Hopewell” sits opposite CHS, on the other side of Scotch Road, from Washington Crossing-Pennington Road to I-95. On it, 430 affordable and 1,720 market rate units will be built (Block 93, Lots 3.01, 5.01, 6.01).

At this time, little is known about the development of the “Enourato” and BMS properties. “Enourato” (Block 78, Lot 17) is an 11-acre parcel of land located on the right side of 31 North, just before the traffic light as the traffic circle is approached. On it, 12 affordable and 58 market rate units will be built. As previously reported in MercerMe, BMS will be closing its Hopewell Township campus located on Pennington-Rocky Hill Road by 2020. Though the majority of the site will hopefully be sold to another life sciences company, a portion (441 acres) will see 50 affordable and 200 market rate units built.

To learn the history of affordable housing, an overview of the settlement, and read answers to resident questions about the process, click here to access the Township’s September 19th public presentation.

*NOTE: Article updated and clarified. Information confirmed with Fair Share Housing and NJFuture.

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  1. This statement in your story is incorrect: “In compliance with the State’s inclusionary housing development rules, for every affordable unit, four market rate housing units must be built simultaneously.” The state has no such requirement, although some municipalities do (not sure if Hopewell is one); it is a commonly used formula to protect municipalities from developer lawsuits. It is also the formula used to allow developers a “density bonus” in return for their commitment to build affordable units — they may build a total of 20 percent more units than underlying zoning allows, as long as those extra units are deeded affordable. Your story should be corrected.

    FYI, municipalities may generate affordable housing in a number of ways that require no new construction at all — rehab of existing units, allowing large single-family units to be divided, allowing accessory dwelling units such as apartments over garages, allowing smaller-lot and smaller-footprint zoning, repurposing disused commercial and industrial buildings into housing, and better protections for manufactured housing, to name just a few. We are happy to serve as a resource if you need further insight into ways municipalities can satisfy their affordable-housing obligations while still preserving the essence of their communities.

    • Thank you for your comments and corrections, Elaine. We’ll be in touch and see what we can do to confirm and correct the information published here.

  2. We are happy to help any time. I’m sure Fair Share Housing Center would also be happy to give you any information you need. But for purposes of this article, the important point is that inclusionary zoning starts with a developer’s desire to build *market-rate* housing, and, if invoked, says that for every four market-rate units built, an affordable unit must also be built. The requirement, if there is one, is *not* that they must build market-rate if they’re building affordable. They can build all-affordable developments, and many do, with no market-rate component at all.

    This is important for another reason. Many local officials use the four-for-one myth to scare residents into opposing new development. It’s not clear whether they know it’s a myth but they use it anyway, or whether they really don’t understand, but it has been the cause of a great deal of whipped-up anti-housing frenzy in communities that think they’ll have to double in size, when that’s absolutely not true at all. But in a very insidious and dishonest way, it serves the purpose of solidifying local opposition to new housing. In my personal opinion, anyone who writes about housing is obliged to be clear on this point, hence my pounding my soon on my high chair here! Thanks for letting me expound.

  3. What Elaine has said is very true, and should also be considered. There are quite a few homes in the township that are “abandoned”, or are otherwise uninhabited, that could easily be re-habilitated, and used for affordable housing. As it stands now, these homes are empty, and generating ZERO revenue for the township, such as property taxes, school taxes, fire taxes ext. These homes could easily be fixed up, and some could be converted into multi-family dwellings. This would not only help to alleviate some of the density of the affordable housing units required at each planned site, but it would also help to disperse the affordable units more evenly though out the township. Also, we could require the families living in these dwellings to help maintain them, similar to what Habitat for Humanity does. Not only would the dwellings be fixed up and the township look better because there were no more abandoned homes, but the families who were going to be living in these homes would take more pride in them, and they would also learn the necessary skills to help maintain the properties in good condition.

    We hope that the powers that be will listen to people like Elaine, and the great advice she and others give to this issue. I live in Hopewell Township, and I personally know of at least 20 properties that appear to be abandoned, overgrown, and run down. These places are providing no monies to the township in the way of taxes or other payments towards anything at the moment. If they were to be fixed up, and had families living in them, it would not only be good for the properties and families, but good for the township as well.

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