Despite uncertainty as to what form it will take in the future, the township council unanimously approved a resolution Monday to submit their affordable housing plans to the Department of Community Affairs for approval.
The resolution approves the adoption of a spending plan for affordable housing, valued at $5,319,576.61.
“I think most people are aware that all the municipalities in the state are under the gun if they have funds in their housing trust because they have to spend them by July 17,” said township attorney William Savo. “But we were not able to get a definition of what committed means. We are not sure about what credits we will get to our housing obligations in the future because [the Council on Affordable Housing] is in a state of flux.”
The projected gross income in the affordable housing fund is about $5.5 million, according to township planner Scarlett Doyle. That money, she said, is supposed to be used as of 2018 for affordable housing projects.
“The effort here is to commit or spend that amount by 2018, with a small reduction,” she said.
According to Doyle, the first line of the trust is for housing rehabilitation, which will cost about $1.1 million. And projected new construction, she said, will amount to about $1.975 million.
These projects include 91 units on township land on East Main Street, four units on Whitney Court, eight units in Faircloth and six units in Villages III.
Savo said the project at Whitney Court was previously approved, as was the Faircloth project.
“Two single family homes were knocked down across from the senior center, and we have an acre of land there,” he said.
Village III, Savo said, is a commitment that was previously approved through a developer’s agreement. The developer, he said, was responsible for providing two affordable units, and he in fact provided six instead.
Finally, Doyle said, to render existing units as affordable, the township must spend about $2.3 million, and they currently have $1.79 million for subsidies for various projects.
These monies, Doyle said, also include funds the township receives annually for the maintenance of the Habitat for Humanity basin—that money is put to use in the general budget, and $150,000 is reserved for future reconstruction or repairs of it.
“It will sit aside if needed,” she said.
In addition, Doyle said, there is the market to affordable program, which takes units that are on the market and turns them into affordable housing. She said there are three bedroom units on Finderne Avenue and a two-family rental that the owner has agreed to make affordable.
“The total of all that is $2.33 million, and we must have $2.32 million, so we have hit the target,” she said.
In total, Doyle said, the total funds committed or spent totals $5.5 million.
But with deductions because of state statutes, Doyle said, the township only has to provide a commitment of spending $4.68 million.
“We have done what we have to do and more so,” she said. “The point is, should there be any misinterpretation, we are covered because we have committed everything we have.”
In answer to a question from the council, township administrator James Naples said the money can only be used for certain work to be done to structures to make them affordable housing, and it cannot be used for cosmetic work, sidewalks or other similar improvements.
As for the projects themselves, Savo said, most of them have been on the books for several years, although there are some new ones.
The biggest new project being planned, Savo said, is on land near , which has been looked at for several years at this point.
“[The owners of the land] have allowed us to do 90 affordable housing units,” he said. “The land is available, we have had the letter for a couple years.”
“Right now we have a surplus, but under the new COAH rules, we don’t know how much of that will be counted,” he added.
Still, although the township has submitted its plan, it is still in a stage of flux right now because the COAH rules have not been officially set out. And, Savo said, none of the plans at this point include new construction, they all have to do with existing structures and previously approved projects.
“We’re not building anything now, and six months from now we may get additional credits because projects may count differently,” he said. “We don’t know what the future holds, and this will be interesting as the process evolves.”
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