Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 2
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
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Affordable Housing Plan Acknowledges Borough Build-out, Looks Ahead

Dilshanie Perera

A report given by Zoning and Affordable Housing Officer Derek Bridger at last week’s Borough Council meeting suggested that while the time is right for building affordable housing, there are few locations in the Borough available for new development.

Additionally, the state’s Council of Affordable Housing (COAH) regulations state that any proposals must first be approved by the state before the Borough can use its affordable housing funds.

Mr. Bridger reported that as of September 30, 2009, $23,409 had been collected in developer fees, bringing the current account balance to $706, 227. The account balance for the growth share fees is $606,087 as of the same date.

“There is not a lot of vacant land we have access to,” Mr. Bridger acknowledged in regard to building new structures. Nonetheless, “if we see something right now, we should ask to do it, since this is a great time,” he said of obtaining competitive prices for new development, rehabilitation, or renovations.

Townhouses that could serve developmentally disabled adults would yield one COAH credit per bedroom, said Mr. Bridger, who envisioned a group home comprised of three or four bedrooms at a cost of $166,000 per unit in addition to land costs. Recommending pursuing the plan, he added that the Borough would work with the non-profit Community Options, which would organize the construction, do the paperwork, and find eligible candidates for residency.

Mr. Bridged also noted that the Princeton Housing Authority is in need of a new heating system, for which affordable housing funds could be used.

Notable events in the past year include the opening of five units at 100 Leigh Avenue, all of which have been rented, Mr. Bridger said, adding, “The project was funded entirely by Princeton University as part of its growth share obligation from the ORFE building.”

Under COAH rules, new development in town generates a municipal obligation to provide affordable housing. For every five market rate units, the municipality is required to provide one affordable unit.

The Borough acquired the property at Leigh Avenue in 1994, and the site is currently managed by Princeton Community Housing Development Corporation and N.T. Callaway. The total project costs are estimated at $2,140,000, with the growth share fee calculated at $2,524,159. Remaining funds after construction will be retained in the Affordable Housing Growth Share Account, according to the report.

A moderate-income unit and a low-income one bedroom apartment have been set aside at 41 Spring Street as a result of a recent deed restriction, Mr. Bridger said. The property was the focus of a 1992 Zoning Board case, with the units being set aside as affordable only after a recent investigation.

Despite the state of the economy, “We are having trouble filling the units,” Mr. Bridger said. “COAH’s pricing of units is not based on square footage. It’s a state-mandated system and it’s not flexible.”

Other affordable housing activity in the report included the rehabilitation of the four-unit apartment at 135 Bayard Lane, the ten moderate-income apartments set aside as part of Phase II of the downtown redevelopment, and one moderate COAH unit coming on line in mid-2010, with the Nassau Inn converting hotel space to three apartments.

Council member David Goldfarb urged that “money should go where it would be used more efficiently and where it is needed the most.”

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