LTE: Don’t “roll the dice” on builder’s remedy lawsuits

To the Editor:

To meet its court-mandated obligation to provide affordable housing, Hopewell Township – and every other municipality in New Jersey – has three options.

The first option is for the Township to build all 653 of its required units on its own. At a cost of about $300,000 per unit, that’s $196 million dollars, or $30,000 for every homeowner in Hopewell Township. Mortgage it, and you’re paying off the principal plus interest for years to come, and by agreeing to build it at Township expense, we would be guaranteeing that the housing gets built. Remember, the Township’s obligation is only to provide a realistic opportunity for affordable housing to be built, not guarantee it will be built.

Another option is to allow a developer to build the required housing, which then comes with a ratio of four market-rate units for every affordable unit. In this option, it’s the developer’s responsibility to pay for all infrastructure and construction costs. The Township pays for none of it, and if the developer decides the market doesn’t support the construction of those housing units, the economy shifts into recession or market conditions otherwise change, these units don’t get built, yet the Township’s obligation is still fully satisfied. 

A third option is to do nothing, risking “builder’s remedy” lawsuits that take control of the process away from the community and gives it to outside developers, resulting in the construction of far more market-rate units – after all, that’s how the developer makes its profits, not on the affordable units – as we have seen in Brandon Farms where the ratio of market-rate to affordable is eight to nine market rate units for every affordable unit. Equally concerning, ANY Township parcel could be rezoned for affordable housing with a builder’s remedy lawsuit, opening the entire Valley up to unchecked development and sprawl.

Leadership is deciding between the options that are available, not stringing along the public’s hopes for a zero-impact option that doesn’t exist. That leadership is what Mayor Kristin McLaughlin has shown. Her opponent, by contrast, suggests we “roll the dice” on builder’s remedy lawsuits.

Bill Crerand,

Hopewell Township

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