Barnegat Leader

Barnegat Settles Round Three Housing Obligation

May 18, 2018

An ordinance recently introduced by the Barnegat Township Committee will require the municipality to set aside 100 new residential units and rehabilitate 86 existing ones for affordable housing according to a settlement reached with the Fair Share Housing Center.

Jerry Dasti, the township affordable housing attorney, said the ordinance will end two years of litigation.

“The 100 new units would be built at no cost to the township,” he said. “It will be the responsibility of the developer. If we didn’t resolve this, the alternative would be an imposed obligation where we would have built 100 units at our cost. We would then have to bond $15 million to $20 million to meet our affordable housing obligation.”

Sean Kean, township attorney, said the agreement was part of the town’s “third round” obligation, which initially went into effect in 2007.

“We met our first round obligations, then our second round, and now we are faced with this new round,” said Kean. “And in 2025, there’s going to be another round, so you’ll be looking down the shotgun again.”

He said that in prior rounds, towns such as Barnegat could meet their obligation through regional contribution agreements (RCAs), in which the town paid a fee to another municipality that agrees to provide affordable housing units to fulfill up to half of the sending municipality’s obligations.

“But that has since been outlawed,” said Kean.

Dasti said most of the new affordable housing units would be part of a residential development proposed at the old site of Sweet Jenny’s on Route 9 (see separate story).

“They’re proposing 92 units, which comes close to satisfying our obligation,” said Dasti.

 He said the affordable housing issue is “difficult public policy.”

“It’s not like you’re against helping people who need more-affordable housing,” said Kean. “But ultimately, it strains the local tax dollars because you need to spend more money for schools, police and other services.”

 Kean said that in reaching a settlement, the township would avoid a builder’s remedy lawsuit.

“That’s a very serious hammer,” he said. “Such a lawsuit would result in a town’s inability to zone. We certainly wanted to maintain control of our zoning.”

Concerning the rehabilitated units, the ordinance requires the township to administer both a rental and owner-occupied program. A special budget will be prepared and adopted that will outline the schedule and expenditures. The spending plan will be funded through the township’s existing developer fee ordinance.

In addition, the township will be responsible for submitting the rehabilitation program manuals and documenting each rehabilitation application. Any renovation of housing units to be occupied by low- and moderate-income households will comply with the New Jersey State Housing Code.  

A public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for a special meeting on Thursday, May 24, at 9 a.m.

— Eric Englund

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