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Bill would permit transfer of affordable housing obligations

New Jersey District 30 legislators Sen. Bob Singer and assemblymen Sean Kean and Dave Rible plan to introduce a bill reauthorizing the use of regional contribution agreements (RCAs) to meet municipal fair share housing obligations.

Current law prohibits municipalities from using RCAs, according to a press release from the three Republican legislators.

The District 30 municipalities are Avon-by-the-Sea, Belmar, Bradley Beach, Brielle, Farmingdale, Howell, Lake Como, Manasquan, Sea Girt, Spring Lake, Spring Lake Heights and Wall Township in Monmouth County, and Lakewood and Point Pleasant in Ocean County.

“The court has mandated that municipalities provide affordable housing,” Singer said. “This legislation would allow towns some discretion in planning this development and provide another method for building affordable housing without forcing it all to be constructed in towns that cannot accommodate this burden.”

“Municipalities, and more importantly, taxpayers, should be afforded a say in this process that could drastically increase municipal expenses,” Kean sad. “RCAs would at least offer towns a common sense approach that might allow them to create a plan that actually suits their community and taxpayers.”

Regional contribution agreements were created by the 1985 Fair Housing Act which allowed towns to transfer up to 50 percent of their affordable housing obligation to another municipality that would build the units, according to the press release.

The receiving towns would benefit from reinstituting these agreements as they would be able to use the money to renovate existing affordable housing and locate the projects near mass transit and other suitable locations, according to the legislators.

“Allowing the use of RCAs is a reasonable approach that helps satisfy new housing quotas and provides valuable funding to rehabilitate existing affordable housing,” Rible said. “Towns are being mandated to provide this housing that could lead to increased property taxes, overcrowded schools and a strain on municipal services.”

The New Jersey Supreme Court, through the Mount Laurel cases in 1975 and 1983, mandated a constitutional obligation for every municipality in a “growth area” to provide a fair share of its region’s present and prospective housing needs for low and moderate income families, according to the press release.

Throughout the years there have been numerous court challenges concerning a town’s obligation to build affordable housing.

Most recently, the Supreme Court ruled that municipalities must provide housing for the 16-year gap period when there were no court-approved third round rules. For some municipalities, especially in Monmouth County, this means a sizable increase in the number of housing units that must be built, according to the press release.

Under state law, a municipality cannot be required to build more than 1,000 units. However, some municipalities in Monmouth County may have to permit more new construction than their fair share number because many of the affordable housing projects are comprised of market value units and a portion of the units are priced for people who have a low or moderate income, according to the legislators.

Singer, Kean and Rible said Howell officials are currently considering 16 affordable housing proposals to meet the municipality’s estimated obligation of 322 to 550 units. One plan submitted by K. Hovnanian calls for 269 housing units of which 20 percent, 54 apartments, would be affordable. That plan would only satisfy 54 fair share units, according to the press release.

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