2007-09-20 / Front Page

Jackson still working out affordable housing details

BY DAVE BENJAMIN Staff Writer

JACKSON - An amendment to the affordable housing portion of the township's master plan is in the works.

"Jackson must prepare an amendment to its master plan, specifically amending its housing element," said attorney John F. Russo Jr., who represents Jackson on affordable housing issues. "The township element is essentially the township's plan for compliance with the affordable housing obligations for Jackson."

In this case it is for Jackson's second round affordable housing obligation, Russo said at the Sept. 10 meeting of the Planning Board.

According to affordable housing litigation that dates back to the 1980s, municipalities in New Jersey must provide housing for people with low and moderate incomes. Affordable housing is defined as housing that is rented or sold at below market rates to people who have an income that meets regional guidelines.

Russo said the component master plan forms the basis for Jackson's fair share plan, and essentially, the housing element, the fair share plan and the compliance plan all mean the same thing, but the housing element is the document that is approved officially by the Planning Board.

Township officials must approve the fair share plan and collectively the documents become the plan that is submitted to the state Council on Affordable Housing (COAH).

Jackson's affordable housing obligation is under court jurisdiction as opposed to COAH jurisdiction, which was a decision made in 1992 by Jackson representatives, Russo said.

Since 1992 the court has had jurisdiction over the affordable housing plan and township officials have been working with the court and a professional planner who has been appointed by the court

"In 1993 the court approved of the township's compliance plan," said Russo.

At that time the township had an obligation of 712 affordable housing units for 1987 through 1994."

A plan was adopted and has been implemented ever since.

In 1994 COAH came up with a second round affordable housing ruling which increased Jackson's obligation by 1,323 units.

"Those are the township's obligations for the cumulative first and second rounds, which was from 1987 through 1999," said Russo.

He explained that when the obligation was presented by COAH to Jackson, the township attorney filed an appeal with COAH to put a 1,000 unit cap, which the court decided.

Russo said there was a court case which capped the two rounds at 1,000 units each.

He said the township continued its quest to find a resolution from COAH, and though it lost its case, it did delay the second round housing obligation.

Russo distributed to the members of the Planning Board a list of credits and anticipated credits for projects for 1987 through 1999. Some items were completed, some are under way and others were transferred out of Jackson through regional contribution agreements (RCA).

"It is important to note that a lot of the 1,323 units have already been satisfied," Russo said.

The attorney said that when he came on board in July 2006 there were several areas that needed immediate attention. One item was the Hovbilt project in the Cassville section of Jackson which was approved by the court by way of an affordable housing agreement with the township and the developer in 1999.

Due to some rule changes by COAH, the affordable housing yield from that project resulted in some issues which have not yet been resolved, the attorney said.

Additionally, Russo said a few years ago Jackson started to put together an affordable housing project that would be 100 percent affordable rental units which are to be available to families.

"Those areas are a large portion of the yet-to-be-resolved component of the plan," the attorney said. "Now we are at the spot where we know what is in and what is out [of the picture]. We resolved the old problems. Now we have to come up with a way of dividing up the remaining shortfall" in affordable units.

In July, Jackson's affordable housing planner, John D. Maczuga, looked at the overall picture and discovered some additional issues.

In August, Russo said, the state planning commission made some changes for Jackson. Right now it is just a proposal to make changes.

"At this time we may not be able to achieve the court's directive to submit the second round compliance plan by Nov. 15," said Russo. "The Planning Board has to now adopt an amended element" to the second round compliance plan.

Maczuga said two charts which were distributed to the board members explain where Jackson stands in regard to its affordable housing obligation.

"The township's obligation is 1,323 units," said Maczuga. "That is comprised of two components, the rehab component which is 76 units and the new construction component which is 1,247 units."

Maczuga reviewed construction credits and rental bonus credits for affordable housing.

The second plan included RCA credits for the Vista Center (50 credits), Lakewood (114), Burroughs (66) and South Knolls (36).

RCA credits for Lakewood were not included on the first chart.

In addition, construction credits called for 40 credits for New Alternative Living and 10 credits for an Accessory Apartment Program. These were included on the second chart and not on the first chart.

Other construction credits on the second chart included Vista Center (100), Westlake (150), Orchards (15), Colonial Arms (25), Solar Avenue (111), Tomorrow's Hope (5) and Hovbilt (68).

Some of the previous developments have already been built, while other have not, Maczuga reiterated.

Jackson's affordable housing administrator, Ervin E. Oross Jr. of Rehabco Inc, Brick Township, noted that changes will have to be made to township ordinances. He said people will have to understand the eligibility rules. He said developers will also have to be made aware of changes, what was agreed to and their obligations regarding affordable housing.

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