By Jennifer Ortiz
HOWELL – The Township Council has adopted an ordinance that will give preference for affordable housing to certain military veterans who served the nation in times of war or other emergencies.
The ordinance was adopted on March 7 and pertains to veterans who have a low income or a moderate income as defined by the state’s affordable housing regulations.
The township and a developer, or a residential development owner, may enter into an agreement to provide a preference for affordable housing to veterans, according to the ordinance.
The preference will be established in the applicant selection process for available affordable units so that applicants who are veterans and who apply within 90 days of the initial marketing period will receive preference for the rental of up to 50 percent of the affordable units in that particular project, according to the ordinance.
After the first 90 days of the initial 120-day marketing period, if any of those units subject to the preference remain available, then applicants from the general public will be considered for occupancy.
Following the initial 120-day marketing period, previously qualified applicants and future qualified applicants who are veterans, who served in time of war or other emergency, will be placed on a special waiting list as well as the general waiting list, according to the ordinance.
Township Attorney McKenna Torcivia said, “We will let the existing (affordable housing locations) know about the ordinance so they can implement the preference when there is a new marketing round for vacancies … and all new projects will be made aware of this (ordinance) and will offer the preference.”
Resident Evelyn O’Donnell said, “As the mother of a veteran, I applaud the council for this. I have a question … they talk about applicants who are veterans who served in a time of war or other emergency. Would this mean that only veterans who served in wartime or during another emergency, whatever that might be, are the only qualified people?”
Torcivia said there is a statute referenced in the ordinance that defines veterans and active service, but she noted there is proposed legislation that would streamline “active service” rather than identify those particular instances that are considered active service.
Resident Barbara Dixel thanked the council members for being proactive in assisting veterans.
“I think (the ordinance) is wonderful. This is something I think Howell deserves a lot of recognition for,” Dixel said.
Councilman Edward Guz thanked Deputy Mayor Robert Nicastro and Planning Board Chairman Paul Schneider for bringing the issue of granting preference to veterans for affordable housing to the governing body’s attention.
Mayor Bill Gotto, Councilman Robert Walsh, Nicastro and Guz voted to adopt the ordinance. Councilwoman Pauline Smith was absent from the meeting.
A week before the council meeting, the members of the Planning Board discussed the proposed ordinance and found it to be in compliance with Howell’s master plan.
“What this ordinance does is give our veterans 90-day preference where low- and moderate-income affordable housing units are going to be built in Howell,” Schneider said.
Schneider thanked the mayor, council members and administration for putting the ordinance together and supporting veterans who “defend our freedom and give us the opportunity to do what we are doing here in Howell.”