Little Egg Harbor Moves to Resolve Affordable Housing Obligation

Mar 15, 2017

Little Egg Harbor officials are confident that their affordable housing Fair Share Plan will prevail in court when they return on April 21 for a final determination.

That was the opinion of Township Engineer Jim Oris during the March 9 municipal meeting when he said a settlement with the non-government Fair Share Housing Center in December under Superior Court Judge Mark A. Troncone would most likely prevail.

According to the plan composed by T&M Associates, the present need, including that for rehabilitation of housing stock, is 124 units; the prior round obligation (from 1987 to 1999) is 194 units; and the third round obligation (from 1999 to 2025) is 634 units.

The Little Egg Harbor Township Committee adopted the Housing Fair Share Plan by resolution during the meeting. The plan was first adopted by the planning board on March 2 and will be incorporated into the township master plan for land use.

The last housing plan element adopted into Little Egg Harbor’s master plan was in 2008. Much of that has to do with the state Council On Affordable Housing and its inability to function when Gov. Chris Christie did not fill appointments to the regulatory agency.

The township’s plan captures six elements: an inventory of the existing housing stock to find the number of affordable housing units, and those that could be rehabilitated to low- and moderate-income housing; the probable future construction of affordable housing; demographics of the municipality; existing and probable employment characteristics; the town’s ability to meet housing needs now and in the near future; and land available for construction of low- and moderate-income housing.

In 2008, the housing plan addressed the rehabilitation share, the prior round commitments and the municipality’s prospective “growth share” between 2004 and 2018 – how much it had grown in market-priced housing. According to T&M, this number was invalidated when COAH was unable to adopt new rules and the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered the Superior Courts to be responsible for determining the numbers in March 2015.

On June 8, 2015, the township filed a declaration of its best estimate of a Fair Share obligation, and also filed a motion for immunity from builder’s remedy lawsuits while it prepared the housing plan.

Judge Troncone granted the township five months of lawsuit immunity, and later extended it to Dec. 16, 2016. On that date, a hearing was held on the township’s compliance plan and the township settled a lawsuit brought by the Fair Share Housing Center, a nonprofit dedicated to providing affordable housing in New Jersey. Temporary immunity from the builder’s remedy was extended again, and the final compliance hearing on the plan is scheduled for April 21.

The township has met three units of its present need of 124 units – providing 10-year deferred Community Development Block Grant loans to rehabilitate three properties, one each on Cherry Street, Valley Forge Drive and Lexington Drive. The town’s budget for 2012 allocates $250,000 to rehabilitate another 10 properties. “The township will use affordable housing trust funds and to the extent necessary, other municipal funds, to implement a housing rehabilitation program that adheres to all regulatory requirements in order to complete a minimum of an additional 111 housing rehabilitations, including rentals, to meet its present need,” states the housing plan prepared by T&M.

The prior rounds (1987 to 1999) of 194 units have been covered by the existing low- and moderate-income housing in the township.

The plan also shows the town was allowed to take into account the amount of land under constraints by the state Coastal Area Facilities Review Act and Pinelands National Reserve zoning, for the town’s “Realistic Development Potential” of 308 units. “… the township has been assigned a total third round prospective need of 608 units, however, the township is entitled to and has prepared a vacant land adjustment. The township’s vacant land adjustment indicates there is an RDP of 308 units; the unmet need is therefore, 326 units.”

The township has identified sites for future development to meet the RDP needs on an Affordable Housing Sites map. The township is asking to credit 32 more units in the existing Royal Timbers development on Center Street (72 units of Royal Timbers was already counted in the prior round obligation).

Also listed are: development of 56 rental units on Oak Lane that has received all its permits and will be funded through a CDBG Disaster Relief federal grant; a proposed Mathistown 1 site for 125 rental units on 14.7 acres, which will include 25 affordable family rentals; a Mathistown 2 site for 125 units on 14.3 acres, of which 25 will be affordable; a mixed use site on Route 9 with a total of 75 affordable family-sale and rental units on 31.48 acres (while about 63 acres will be used for market rate units).

Rentals are given bonus credits, as are units made handicapped accessible.

Little Egg Harbor proposes to fulfill its unmet need of 326 units in the future with a municipal-wide requirement that any new multi-family development with five or more units shall include a 15 percent set-aside for affordable rental units, and 20 percent set aside as affordable sale units.

Little Egg Harbor demographics show the median price of a home in Little Egg Harbor is $229,900, lower than Ocean County’s median of $262,700 and the state’s of $319,900. The median rental in Little Egg Harbor is $1,316 per month – lower than the rest of the county at $1,337, but higher than the state median of $1,241.

The plan also indicates the majority of building in Little Egg Harbor took place between the years 2000 to 2010, an increase of 2,303 units and an overall increase of 43.5 percent since 1990. According to a 2015 American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau, the population was 8,377 households. The population of seniors age 65 and older is 21.6 percent. Median income in the township is $60,014, lower than the county’s $61,994 and the state median of $72,222.

— Pat Johnson

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