Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 47
 
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
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Affordable Housing Rules, FreeB Jitney Logistics, Spark Borough Discussion

Dilshanie Perera

Borough Council approved the report on the Affordable Housing Plan presented by consultant Shirley Bishop last Wednesday, in addition to approving an agreement with New Jersey Transit for the community shuttle program.

Since their affordable housing plan is to be presented to the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) by December 31, the Borough and Ms. Bishop have been deliberating about how to meet the COAH requirements by 2018.

“We are entering the home stretch,” Ms. Bishop said of the process. Of the 67-unit rehabilitation obligation the Borough must fulfill, 15 are already complete, and the “balance is left until 2018,” she reported.

According to Ms. Bishop, the Borough has 134 eligible credits from the 178-unit housing obligation, and thus has a 44-unit shortfall.

“Princeton University is not presenting a waiver request until the monitoring takes place … so my recommendation is to address the shortfall somewhere in the Borough,” Ms. Bishop suggested.

If family rental units are built to meet the housing obligation, they would also come with a rental bonus, meaning that instead of building 44 units, the Borough could build fewer units and still fulfill the COAH obligation.

“We are on the hook for finding a place for at least 25 units,” Council member David Goldfarb observed. Pointing out that the Borough would be “constructing and subsidizing a 25-unit low income family housing development,” he asked, “Do you have any idea what the cost of that is?”

“I don’t think there’s any money in the affordable housing trust fund right now,” Ms. Bishop responded. Since the plan has the Borough selecting a site for the development in 2013, she said that “hopefully the economy has revamped by then,” and that more money would be available for municipalities to construct affordable housing.

Mr. Goldfarb observed that “it would be a very burdensome process for taxpayers,” and said that “had the Borough been left to its own devices, we would have significantly more affordable housing.”

Proposing a spending plan based on the $1.8 million projected total in the Borough’s development fund, Ms. Bishop calculated that the “Borough does not have a shortfall” with respect to funds. Mr. Goldfarb mentioned that the Borough would likely need funds from the state for other municipal construction projects.

Borough Council approved the report unanimously.

The other major topic of discussion was an agreement between New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit) and the Borough regarding the FreeB, or jitney bus service that the Borough has in place for residents to ride to and from the Dinky station from 5:30 to 9 a.m. and then again from 5:30 to 9 p.m.

Under the terms of the agreement, NJ Transit is providing a shuttle bus for the Borough to operate for three years. During the first year, NJ Transit has agreed to match up to $30,000 to help with operating expenses. The second and third years would see a contribution of $20,000 and $10,000, respectively.

Borough Administrator Robert Bruschi anticipated that the Borough would “have to bid out for a provider of basic services,” but that “we will have the option to expand [services] however we want,” pending approval of NJ Transit.

Mr. Brushi responded to questions about current ridership, saying that given that the jitney’s “target audience” is commuters at present, “We’re hitting nine to 10 percent of people who walk to the Dinky, and we’re continuing to improve,” while noting that “this was always a means to an end.”

Council member Barbara Trelstad said that “if we were to expand the hours, and locations,” including the shopping center and Elm Court, “we would provide a huge service and expand the ridership considerably.” She suggested creating a task force to specifically address the jitney, and perhaps coordinating routes with the University shuttles.

Mr. Goldfarb agreed that “we have to do a lot better,” saying, “the real advantage is to get the vehicle to meet the unmet transportation needs” in this community.

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