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PRINCETON: Town rejects affordable housing deal (updated)


By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
Princeton has “rejected” a settlement agreement with affordable housing advocacy group Fair Share Housing Center, in a move that means a Superior Court judge will determine what Princeton’s affordable housing requirement will be.
“We are disappointed that Princeton is attempting to find a way to build fewer homes that working families, seniors and people with disabilities can afford by refusing to proceed with the settlement we reached with them in principle two months ago,” said Anthony Campisi, spokesman for the Fair Share Housing Center. “These homes are desperately needed. Despite our willingness to abide by the terms both sides had agreed to, we will now have to resolve this matter through litigation.”
Princeton initially had been in a court case with other Mercer County towns to determine what their affordable housing requirement were, for a span from 1999 to 2025. But the municipality announced in April that it had reached a settlement in “principle” with Fair Share.
A source familiar with the matter said 888 was the number of units that Princeton would be responsible for as per the agreed-upon figure, with the town needing to come up with a plan on how to satisfy its requirements. In part, the town would get credit for affordable housing created in the past, but it would have to demonstrate how it would meet future housing needs.
Since April, however, the two sides could not close the deal. Two weeks ago, Mayor Liz Lempert charged that Fair Share was adding “extra conditions,” something the organization has denied.
Ultimately, it will be up to Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson to rule on what Princeton’s responsibility will be.
In a news release Tuesday, the town said it is “awaiting the judge’s decision as well as maintaining ongoing settlement discussions with the Fair Share Housing Center.”
Neither Mayor Lempert nor Council President Jenny Crumiller returned phone calls seeking comment Tuesday.
Yet this comes with Mayor Lempert revealing Monday that her conflict of interest about her husband’s employment at Princeton University had kept her from fully participating in council discussions on the issue.
Mayor Lempert, the wife of professor Ken Norman, told reporters that she has been involved, partly, in talks, about the now-rejected agreement. The deal would have consisted of two parts, the actual number of affordable units the town is responsible for from 1999 to 2025 and a plan on how to achieve it, she said.
“Because the plan has university properties in it, both myself and (Councilwoman) Heather (Howard) are recusing from that piece,” she said in following legal advice. “I can be part of general discussions, but I step out of the room when it’s specific on the plan when it involves the university.”
Howard, a university employee, said in a text message last week, “I’m recused.” She did not respond to further requests for comment.

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