Opinion: Allow Princeton seniors to stay in place

New housing development

On Aug. 24, the Princeton Council will hopefully approve an amendment to the recently adopted ordinance authorizing accessory dwelling units. This amendment would allow retired, older homeowners, like myself, on a fixed income, the added option of remaining in place as opposed to being forced to sell our older, smaller, more modestly priced homes due to the inability to keep up with relentlessly increasing taxes and upkeep costs.

What would typically happen afterwards would be the tear-down of our modest home to build a large new house with a price point likely to be at least three times as much as the home it replaced. That seemingly unstoppable trend has made our town prohibitive to all but the wealthy few, aggravating our already acute economic and racial segregation.

The homestead tax credits and “senior property tax freeze”, which provided some relief in the past, have been suspended in the current estate fiscal crisis which is not likely to be cured any time soon. This amendment would allow us the option of sharing the ownership of our property, in exchange for a cash inflow to pay off any existing mortgage and perhaps do some necessary improvements, and the advantage of sharing upkeep costs going forward.

This change to the existing ordinance would also bring to market new, modern, reasonably priced homes for diverse sectors of a population that currently can’t afford to live in Princeton: young working adults, middle class families, other seniors who are downsizing, etc. And this would be a gradual, organic process that would be consistent with the character of existing neighborhoods, and benefit many individual current property owners, while lowering the barriers to just as many families who would be able to access home-ownership for the first time.

There is nothing in this amendment that would be inconsistent with the Princeton Master Plan. To the contrary, it would reaffirm our commitment to a more fair, diverse and sustainable community.

Maria Juega