Hightstown to receive COAH funds

In order to meet its affordable-housing requirment, Manalapan Township will pay the borough to establish a fund for rehabilitating affordable housing in Hightstown.

By: Scott Morgan
   HIGHTSTOWN — The borough will receive rehabilitation funds from Manalapan Township related to the township’s Council on Affordable Housing obligations.
   The agreement allows the borough to receive funds for neighborhood housing rehabilitation while simultaneously allowing Manalapan to get credits toward its COAH requirements.
   COAH mandates that each of New Jersey’s 566 municipalities provide its fair share of affordable, low-cost housing. However, the Fair Housing Act permits municipalities to pay other municipalities take up to 50 percent of their fair share obligations.
   According to a borough press release, Mayor Amy Aughenbaugh is implementing a program to assist income-eligible residents in rehabilitating their homes through "forgivable loans." Councilman Mike Vanderbeck said forgivable loans are those that do not need to be repaid, so long as the receiver resides in the house for a set number of years, usually around seven. He said this is designed to keep buyers from renovating houses for free and selling them immediately.
   Homeowners who meet income qualifications and are in need of major repairs, such as roofs, plumbing, heating, electrical or sanitary, may be eligible to receive forgivable loans up to $20,000, the release said.
   Mr. Vanderbeck said the program is beneficial to Hightstown, but also highlights the program’s inadequacies. By allowing municipalities to transfer part of their obligations, richer towns limit their amount of affordable housing and concentrate low-income housing in poorer municipalities.
   "It’s a good idea gone awry," he said.
   The agreement with Manalapan is only for rehabilitation in the borough. No new housing will be built.
   Mr. Vanderbeck also said Hightstown had volunteered to be a receiver of transferred credits and was connected with Manalapan through the state.
Those interested in the program may contact the borough at 490-5100 or call the COAH offices at 371-1937. Homeowners will be selected on a first-come, first-served basis.