The state Council on Affordable Housing has temporarily barred Red Bank from granting any new multifamily housing approvals until a dispute over the borough’s fair share of below-market housing can be addressed, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.
No such projects are currently up for approval by the borough planning or zoning boards. But Borough Attorney Tom Hall tells the Press’ Larry Higgs that he’s “disappointed” that the Fair Share Housing of Cherry Hill won a temporary freeze Wednesday on approvals pending oral arguments by the borough and center attorneys on Nov. 12.
According to the Press, Fair Share Housing Center attorney Adam Green
argued that the borough has approved hundreds of units of luxury housing units, while not setting aside 20 percent of those units as affordable housing under COAH requirements. Those approvals have affected existing affordable housing by increasing property values and forcing low- and moderate-income families out of the borough, he said.
“The town can’t say “We don’t have land to develop (affordable housing on)’ and grant variances to developers of luxury apartments without affordable housing,” Gordon said afterward.
The Press reports that Hall
argued that COAH never told officials that the borough’s current 11 percent set aside for affordable units in a new development wasn’t sufficient. He cited Red Bank’s prior actions to provide zoning and require construction of 120 affordable units, even though COAH said its second-round obligation was zero.
“I’m disappointed in COAH’s (granting temporary) relief,” Hall said. “The borough has done more than enough. Red Bank went from (having to provide for) zero to 128 units. By any measure, that is more than good faith.”
The ruling isn’t likely to stop approval of any new major developments, because none are on Monday’s Planning Board agenda and an agenda hasn’t been set for the next Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting.
The case comes as a surprise in a borough where officials pride themselves on providing affordable housing. Former Mayor Edward McKenna Jr. cited affordable housing built in the borough among his career hallmarks, and the borough has accepted funds from other towns to build affordable housing.
The borough purchased 2 acres of vacant land and plans from a developer of the Cedar Crossings project with the intent to build 30 to 36 units of affordable townhouses there. In 2007, the state awarded a first-ever grant to buy land for affordable housing to the borough in the amount of $2.4 million for that land.
“It’s an unfair stain on the borough,” Hall said of the decision.
Several borough residents, including William Poku, president emeritus of the Red Bank National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and member of the state NAACP, testified to the COAH board, about how rising property values increases property taxes and force people out.
Poku said he’s concerned those pressures will drive people out of the borough’s west side, known for affordable housing.
“This is where people with low and moderate incomes used to live,” he said. “You’ll take something that is 100 percent affordable and turn it into 100 percent luxury (housing) and destroy the character of the neighborhood.”
Poku stressed that the affordable housing advocates aren’t against change or investors getting a reasonable return, but he said there has to be a balance and people must have an affordable place to live.
The freeze comes hard against a public session on COAH obligations already scheduled for tonight at the Red Bank Municipal Building by three state legislators for the 12th district, including state Senator Jennifer Beck, a former borough councilmember. That’s slated for 7 to 9p in the council chambers.