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Atty: Affordable housing settlement agreement serves Manalapan’s interests

MANALAPAN – The Township Committee has voted 4-0 with one abstention to execute a settlement agreement with the Fair Share Housing Center, Cherry Hill, in matters relating to affordable housing.

Committee members took the action during a recent meeting. Deputy Mayor Jack McNaboe, Committeeman Barry Jacobson, Committeewoman Mary Ann Musich and Committeeman Kevin Uniglicht voted in the affirmative.

Mayor Susan Cohen abstains on matters that pertain to affordable housing due to a conflict of interest.

The Fair Share Housing Center advocates for the construction of affordable housing units throughout New Jersey.

Affordable housing is defined as housing that is sold or rented at below market rates to individuals and families whose income meets certain guidelines.

In an interview on Aug. 1, attorney Andrew Bayer, of the firm Pashman Stein Walder Hayden, who represents Manalapan on issues relating to affordable housing, said, “The settlement agreement will provide Manalapan with immunity from builders remedy litigation through July 2025.

“The township will have met its third round affordable housing obligation in the manner in which it has chosen to do so with the least impact on development as possible,” Bayer said.

A builders remedy lawsuit is litigation filed by a developer who claims officials in a municipality have not provided opportunities for the development of affordable housing. The litigation may result in the developer being permitted to construct affordable housing as well as a significant number of market rate homes to subsidize the affordable units.

Bayer said Manalapan officials will be required to make the zoning changes needed to permit planned affordable housing projects to be constructed. He said it is the township’s obligation to provide opportunities for the development of affordable housing, but not to build the homes.

“After the Township Committee makes the zoning changes, it is up to a developer to come forward with a project. Any development that is proposed would be required to follow the regular procedures by appearing before the Planning Board to seek approval,” Bayer said.

According to a resolution passed by the committee, the township filed a declaratory judgment action following a state Supreme Court decision regarding affordable housing, in which the court directed that municipalities were required to file declaratory judgment actions in state Superior Court to evaluate compliance with their affordable housing obligations in order to maintain immunity from builder’s remedy litigation.

The court appointed professional planner Frank Banisch to serve as the special master in the affordable housing litigation to advise the court and the parties on affordable housing compliance issues. The Fair Share Housing Center is a Supreme Court designated interested party in the affordable housing litigation to advocate on behalf of low and
moderate income households in Monmouth County and in the state, according to the resolution.

According to the resolution, Manalapan’s fair share obligation for affordable housing units for 1999 through 2025 has yet to be determined by the court. Township representatives participated in a mediation process with the judge overseeing the matter in an attempt to reach a fair and reasonable resolution of the affordable housing litigation.

Township Committee members determined it was in the best interest of Manalapan to enter into a settlement agreement with the Fair Share Housing Center to avoid the expense and risk of trial and uncertain results.

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