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Fair Haven officials move to settle affordable housing issue

FAIR HAVEN – Mayor Benjamin Lucarelli has described Fair Haven’s proposed settlement agreement with the Fair Share Housing Center as being “in the best interest of our community.”

New Jersey municipalities are under court order to provide opportunities for the development of affordable housing within their borders.

The Fair Share Housing Center, Cherry Hill, advocates for the construction of affordable housing throughout the state.

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

On Jan. 13, a special meeting of the Borough Council was held at the Viola L. Sickles School during which municipal officials discussed new opportunities to provide affordable housing options in Fair Haven.

“I want everyone to keep in mind this has been an ongoing concern for 36 years,” Borough Administrator Theresa Casagrande said.”Early in the process, the state’s larger cities and municipalities with significant amounts of open space were the most desirable locations for affordable housing developments.

“Fair Haven was somewhat insulated because of both our (small) size and lack of open space,” Casagrande said, before adding that municipal officials “worked long and hard when we chose our professionals to deal with affordable housing.”

Susan Gruel, the borough’s planner, discussed the nature of Fair Haven’s obligation to provide opportunities for the construction of 371 affordable housing units. However, she said the borough’s realistic development potential is four affordable housing units.

Among other provisions, Fair Haven’s proposed settlement agreement with the Fair Share Housing Center offers the following options:

• A two-family residence to be built by Habitat for Humanity at Hendrickson Place and Allen Street would produce two affordable housing units;

• A 14-unit project at the site of a vacant Sunoco gas station on River Road would produce two affordable housing units and 12 market rate units. Commercial space would be provided on the ground floor of the proposed building.

A fairness hearing regarding the proposed settlement agreement is expected to be held in state Superior Court in March or April. A judge will review the proposed settlement in what borough officials said is a regular part of the affordable housing process.

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