March 27, 2013

AvalonBay Is Misleading Press, Public, Court About Princeton’s Record on Affordable Housing

To the Editor:

AvalonBay continues to mislead the press, the public, and now the New Jersey Superior Court about Princeton’s record on affordable housing units.

The truth?—Both Princetons have built or designated 208 affordable housing units since 1990, 130 since 2001 alone (see “Housing Restricted to Low and Moderate Income Households in Princeton, N.J., 2012,” tabulation prepared and updated by David N. Kinsey, January 9, 2012, originally issued as “Princeton Housing Opportunities,” through Princeton Community Housing, funded by Princeton Borough, Princeton Township, and the Princeton Area Community Foundation). Mr. Kinsey, a recognized authority on Fair Share obligations, has been appointed by New Jersey courts as a Master to adjudicate statewide matters of affordable housing.

Despite this public tabulation, AvalonBay has deceitfully claimed that Princeton’s Fair Share policy “has only resulted in the construction of six (6) COAH affordable housing units” since 1990 within an artificial Affordable Housing Overlay Zone. AvalonBay incorrectly states: “Princeton Borough has not created a realistic opportunity for its entire fair share obligations for decades” (AvalonBay Communities v. Princeton Planning Board, Princeton, and Princeton Mayor and Council, Verified Complaint, Mercer County Superior Court, February 19, 2013, pp. 9-10).

Does AvalonBay misrepresent facts in order to sway Judge Mary Jacobson by misleading and distorted information?

AvalonBay concealed scientific evidence in their Environmental Impact Statement. Their urban planner Jeromie Lange copied verbatim, without attribution, 24 pages of his official report from their architect Jonathan Metz; see Planning Board transcripts, December 13, 2012, where Mr. Lange conceded,  “The words are his [Mr. Metz’] but I agree with his opinions”! No one in Princeton should trust a corporation devoted to such unprofessional tactics.

Another crucial truth about the affordable housing situation: AvalonBay actually chose to delay construction of 56 affordable housing units required by the ordinance for the MRRO zone—and now blames Princeton for not having built! After contracting with UMCPP (July 28, 2011), AvalonBay could have promptly submitted site plans. Instead, they chose to dicker with Borough Council, trying to get greater density (324 units)—and a lesser percentage of affordable housing (17.3%) than the 20% required by Borough Code.

AvalonBay finally filed plans on June 8, 2012 perhaps half a year later than they might have. They, not Princeton, are responsible for delayed construction of affordable units. Blame must rest where it belongs.

Princeton’s attorneys Gerald Muller and Trishka Cecil must ensure that Judge Jacobson study the truth about Princeton’s compliance with Fair Share obligations and Avalon’s patent distortions.

Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods (PCSN) stands firmly behind Princeton’s record in providing affordable housing. PCSN has been unjustifiably attacked by Anne Studholme, attorney for AvalonBay (letters to Gerald Muller dated October 24 and November 8, 2012) for impeding AvalonBay’s building of affordable units. But PCSN now has legal status as an “intervenor” in the lawsuit, joining  with the other Princeton defendants. Bolstered by many contributions from the community, PCSN will fight back against Avalon’s malpractices. AvalonBay does not belong in Princeton.

Daniel A. Harris

Trustee, PCSN

Dodds Lane