Borough told it lags on affordable housing

Consultant tells council to negotiate COAH obligation


Staff Writer

LITTLE SILVER — The borough must take steps to get into compliance with state mandates on its affordable housing obligation, a consultant told the Borough Council this week.

At its workshop session, the council heard a presentation on the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) rules by Richard Coppola, a planning consultant with the firm of Coppola & Coppola, Princeton Junction.

Coppola spoke about creating a plan for the current round three of COAH obligations.

According to Coppola, because the borough submitted its second round plan late last year, COAH did not review the plan and is already receiving plans for round three obligations.

“Rounds one and two,” said Coppola, “had a formula punched into a computer at Rutgers University which spewed out affordable housing numbers for the whole state.”

He said the round three rules are totally different from the previous two rounds, although all contain a rehabilitation component as well as a new construction component.

Little Silver is obligated to provide 207 residential units of affordable housing, according to Coppola.

He said municipalities must submit their round three plans by December 20, or they will leave themselves open to litigation.

Round three focuses on growth share which calls for one affordable housing unit per eight new market units constructed, including sales and rentals.

Coppola said that obligation will carry through to Dec. 31, 2013, and includes any new construction permitted from Jan. 1, 2004.

Councilman Jon Bitman asked if COAH takes into account municipalities that are “ninety-nine percent built-up.”

Coppola said that COAH does not generally accept that as a reason not to comply with the obligation to provide affordable housing.

He said the best move for the borough would be to meet with representatives from COAH in order to make a case for lowering the obligation for round two, and come up with a round three plan to present by December.

There is also a nonresidential component to round three, which requires that for every 1,000 square feet of new commercial space constructed, it is presumed that 25 jobs will be created, and a certain number of affordable housing must be provided.

Coppola said that now is the time the borough must try to negotiate down the number of residential units it is obligated to provide.

“The game is going to start with some astronomical number,” he told the council.

Coppola suggested that one option the borough could look into would be providing space for group homes, in which case every bed in the home would be considered one residential unit.

Mayor Suzanne Castleman said that she supports the idea of preparing a plan and meeting with COAH representatives.

“We have to have a plan,” she said, “because without a plan we are in deep trouble. They’ll be all over us like a tent.”

Affordable housing obligations are the result of a 1985 New Jersey Supreme Court decision that mandated all municipalities take steps to provide their fair share to meet the need for low- and moderate-income housing.

The formula by which COAH calculates the quantitative affordable housing obligation for municipalities takes into account fiscal capacity, employment, wealth and vacant land availability.

When the round three rules were released in August 2003, they stipulated that for every eight new homes built in a municipality, one must qualify as affordable housing.

Affordable housing is defined by the state as housing that can be purchased or rented with 30 percent or less of one’s income.

According to Donna Rose, executive director of the Monmouth Housing Alliance, in order to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Monmouth County, a single person must earn at least $42,000 per year.

“That’s four times minimum wage,” said Rose. “We’re seeing average rents of about $750 to $900 for a one-bedroom apartment.”

She said that a wage earner considered low income earns between 35 and 50 percent of the state’s median per capita income, which, in 2000, was about $54,226.