Answers concerning COAH money

Letter to the editor

To the editor:
   This letter is responding to "Questions about COAH money" presented in your April 12 edition (Page 10A). As consultants for Hightstown’s proposed transfer of Manalapan’s COAH funds, we would like to take this opportunity to answer Ms. Barr’s questions and to clarify the program. Manalapan can transfer some of their unused COAH funds to Hightstown to partly satisfy Manalapan’s COAH obligation. This benefits Hightstown homeowners by not only improving individual homes, but also thereby improving neighborhoods. Contrary to Ms. Barr’s concern of decreasing Hightstown property values, if anything, property values could increase by improved housing stock.
   Rest assured, the COAH funds cannot be used for an enterprising individual to alter the number of units at a property, to use the funds in a profit-seeking investment venture or to convert the property into rental property. The funds are in place to help low- and moderate-income homeowners correct code violations in the houses that they own and occupy. This pertains to repairs or replacement of the major systems of roof, electrical, heating, plumbing or sanitary plumbing, weatherization or structural.
   If the funding is received by the borough, the funds would likely be provided to homeowners as a forgivable loan with a lien period of six years. If a homeowner transfers title or vacates the property within the designated lien period, a prorated amount will be due payable, at 0 percent interest. The recaptured funds could then become available for future homeowners in need of assistance.
   Community Grants and Planning has administered similar programs throughout New Jersey since 1993. From our professional standpoint, we have had firsthand experience witnessing the benefits of these programs. The programs provide homeowners with improved living conditions, abatement of code violations and safety enhancement. Be mindful not to stereotype income levels. Low- and moderate-income households can include senior citizens who have worked hard all their adult lives and now survive solely on a fixed income. These income categories can include young families starting off in life on their own, people who have earned the position of property owner by shear determination and disciplined savings, your relative or your friend. It could be you, after facing a loss of employment or a medical hardship. It would be an injustice to view this funding opportunity in a negative light.
   The borough is looking out for its residents and hopefully the residents will look out for each other. If you know of anyone who may need housing rehabilitation and may be eligible for assistance, please have them call us at our local East Windsor office at 371-1937. Likewise, we are available for any questions or comments between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Corinne Markulin
East Windsor
The writer is the housing department supervisor for Community Grants and Planning.