Princeton Community Housing asks for land donation

Borough Council considering request for Elm Court as issues remain with township over division of affordable housing credits.

By: Jennifer Potash
   Princeton Community Housing, which is planning construction of the long-delayed affordable senior housing project at Elm Court, has asked the Princeton Borough Council to donate — instead of lease — land for the project.
   But the Borough Council delayed action until it first settles some outstanding issues with Princeton Township concerning the Elm Court expansion.
   Now under review by the Princeton Regional Planning Board, the project would add 67 one-bedroom units for low-income senior citizens at Elm Court, built by Princeton Community Housing in 1985. The site is located on Elm Road and is partly in the borough and partly in the township.
   PCH, the nonprofit, volunteer organization that builds and manages affordable housing in Princeton Borough and Princeton Township, received a $7.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in December that will help cover much of the cost of the project, said Sandra Rothe, PCH executive director.
   The organization wants to apply for a $1 million loan from the Federal Home Loan Bank and a $660,000 subsidy from the Balanced Housing Program of the State of New Jersey, Ms. Rothe said.
   Complicating the picture, the borough owns land in Princeton Township, where 12 of the new units will be built, and leases that land to PCH.
   To receive the Federal Home Loan Bank financing, PCH may need to own the land rather than have a long-term lease, Ms. Rothe said.
   "We’re requesting that the land be gifted to us for $1 and we would ask the council to consider it," Ms. Rothe said.
   Before acting on the request, the borough needs to work out some issues with Princeton Township over how affordable-housing credits will be shared between the two municipalities, said Councilman Roger Martindell, who stressed his strong support for the senior housing project.
   Mayor Joseph O’Neill said the issue tops the list of items between the two municipalities that he planned to discuss with Princeton Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand at an upcoming meeting.
   Mr. Martindell and other council members have said the borough should get the credit for the 12 units built on borough-owned land in the township.
   Princeton Township officials have countered that state regulations allow the township to receive the affordable-housing credits.
   Ms. Rothe said that while PCH has no control in the matter, the organization has recommended the township grant the borough the credit for the 12 units.
   PCH also requested the borough waive its fees for building permits.
   Councilman David Goldfarb suggested the borough make a donation to PCH in the amount of the fees instead of actually waiving them.
   The community has generously donated toward the Elm Court II project, Ms. Rothe said. In addition to a $50,000 gift from Princeton Borough resident William Scheide, friends of Princeton Community Housing have contributed over $12,000 in response to a year-end appeal, according to Pat Hatton, a PCH trustee.