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Township Gets Housing Quota

Matthew Hersh

Princeton Township was given the opportunity to absorb its share of state-mandated affordable housing Monday night. But unlike Princeton Borough, which is faced with fulfilling its requirements in a municipality with little developable land, the Township appears to have more options.

The Township is required to provide 116 affordable units from 2004 through 2014, a calculation based on the state's Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) formula relating to job growth and square-footage for new development. COAH subsequently works off a square-footage formula that estimates how many jobs would be created.

Citing construction information discrepancies between the Township and the state's Department of Community Affairs, Township Housing Consultant Elizabeth McKenzie labeled the COAH requirement a "work in progress": "We're sort of tweaking the numbers."

COAH uses construction data as supplied by the state. If those data differ from an individual municipality's, the town must offer reasons for those discrepancies.

Ms. McKenzie said "a lot" of the requirement was based on certificates of occupancy issued during 2004 and 2005 and will be based on building approvals already given. Unlike the Borough, however, the Township does not have a mechanism to capture affordable housing opportunities through a growth share ordinance. The Borough implements an overlay zone that requires any residential development consisting of five or more units to set aside 20 percent for affordable housing or funding for affordable housing activities.

Ms. Mckenzie also worried that when dealing with the private and public schools, in light of several school improvements and expansions, there was no mechanism in place that would encourage those institutions to contribute to affordable housing in a way that is commensurate with the spaces they occupy. "That's going to be somewhat problematic as we go down the road," she said, adding that similar problems arise when dealing with Princeton University development in the Township.

She recommended that the Township view the 116-unit obligation in "various components," including the University's construction prospects and the consideration of a growth share ordinance that mirrors the Borough's.

Redevelopment opportunities that could result in additional affordable units lie in any redevelopment of the 50-year-old Princeton Shopping Center, Ms. McKenzie, said, adding that "there were a number of options we have to look at."

The Township, however, has potentially fulfilled more than half of its obligation with the 56 units slated for Elm Court II on Elm Road, five assisted-living units at Acorn Glen, two Habitat for Humanity projects, and one rehabilitation project.

Committeeman Bill Enslin worried about the amount of time left for the Township to act on a plan, since the state is calling for an affordable housing plan by December. Ms. McKenzie said it was possible to come up with a plan first, and then amend it as better opportunities arise. COAH allows for an amendment process for "tweaking" the municipal affordable housing plan in the third, fifth, and eighth years of the coming cycle.


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