Planner to council: Have fair housing plan or risk lawsuit

By sandi carpello
Staff Writer

Planner to council: Have fair
housing plan or risk lawsuit
By sandi carpello
Staff Writer

FAIR HAVEN — When it comes to affordable housing, the Borough Council has a choice.

The council can either establish an affordable housing plan or run the risk of a costly builder’s-remedy lawsuit, according to professional planner John Maczuga of Schoor DePalma Inc., Manalapan.

Citing the state Supreme Court’s Mount Laurel decisions — which require New Jersey’s 566 municipalities to establish a realistic opportunity for the provision of fair-share low- and moderate-income housing — Maczuga presented a proposed strategy for confronting the issue at the Aug. 11 council meeting.

"All you need to do is set up the program," Maczuga said. "If a developer takes advantage of the program, I’d be surprised. Most builders and developers don’t want to build affordable housing."

However, if a plan is not in place and a developer does opt to sue the borough, "he will, in all likelihood, win," Maczuga said. "Developers will most likely get what they want. That’s the reason you go and start the process."

Under the requirements of the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), the borough is obligated to provide 84 affordable-housing units. Thirty of those units may be rehabilitated substandard units, but 55 of those units must be newly constructed.

That number, according to Maczuga, is not etched in stone.

Through performing an extensive study and appealing to COAH, Maczuga said he was "confident he could get the number [of units] down substantially," — possibly to as low as 57, he said.

While some residents worried that building more residential units in the borough would also bring additional school-aged children and increase de­mand on services, Maczuga laid out some other possibilities.

Twenty-five percent of the afford­able housing requirements could be age-restricted to seniors, he said. The bor­ough also has the option of allocating funds toward repairing the homes of low- to moderate-income families in an effort to get the homes up to par with the bor­ough’s construction code.

The first step is to determine what the fair share of units in Fair Haven would be, Maczuga said.

Sheryl Cole, president of the Long Branch chapter of Habitat for Humanity, spoke during the public portion of the Aug. 11 meeting and offered the borough an alternate strategy.

The nonprofit organization that builds affordable housing for low-income fami­lies is "prepared" to work with Fair Haven, she said.

"The only cost to the town would be the cost of the property," she said. "We choose the family. When we sell the house, we sell it at cost."

In addition to requiring the potential homeowners to assist with the construc­tion of their future home, Habitat for Humanity encourages those homeowners to "keep up their property and make it an asset to the town — not a detri­ment," she said.

At its next meeting, the council plans to vote on whether it will hire Schoor DePalma to go through with a study.