The following was posted by South Orange Village President Sheena Collum on her personal Facebook page on January 31, 2024. It is reposted here with her permission. UPDATE: In response to a request from Village Green, Maplewood Township Committee member/former Mayor Dean Dafis wrote, “I think we need to make it clear that we’re completely speculating here! There is so much we do not know yet. We have not received any official calculation or analysis. Our own affordable housing counsel hasn’t had the opportunity to analyze this, as the current version of the bill has just been released with many details – the calculation itself – not yet available. If close to 700, at 15% set-aside, we’re looking at 105 affordable [in Maplewood over the next 10 years].” Village Green will continue to follow this story.
Good Morning All – for the past six weeks, I’ve been spending substantial time reviewing a new bill in the legislature S50/A4 – which relates to affordable housing obligations.
As many of you know, our entire development strategy in South Orange is built around compliance with meeting our “fair share” of affordable units. This is our housing element and fair share plan. I know you see a lot of construction projects underway. That was our Third Round (and gap period). The last major piece of our third round is Irvington Avenue, which is 60 units including 12 affordable housing units.
We’re now heading into our fourth round, which will occur between 2025-2035. While the legislature cannot produce numbers (the bill only speaks to a complex methodology where some data isn’t even available yet), I’m incredibly confident our obligation will be around 100 units for very low, low, and moderate-income families.
Following our ordinance, which is 20% inclusionary (and aggressive; most towns are at 15%), we will need to develop a total of 500 units over the next 10 years, along with the projects that are currently underway. We do this through increased density (more units on a site than what is permitted, which also results in taller buildings) and PILOTs (which are Payments in Lieu of Taxes). PILOTs don’t mean a property doesn’t pay money, it’s a different methodology of revenue calculation “in lieu of” traditional taxes. This is necessary because projects need to be financially viable, or they don’t get built. These two tools are available to us through our Area in Need of Redevelopment designations (we also have a town-wide rehabilitation). Essentially, the market rate units need to subsidize the creation of affordable units to meet our obligations.
I spoke about all of this and its complexity during a Housing Town Hall hosted by the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race. Check it out when you get a chance.
Your takeaways should be the following:
1) By the end of this year, we’re going to have numbers presented to us, and we’ll need to update our Housing Element and Fair Share Plan and be specific about how we’re going to achieve our obligations.
2) South Orange is way ahead of the game but hasn’t always been. This town used to play with its zoning and put affordable housing overlays in the Quarry (now million-dollar townhomes) and on top of Orange Lawn Tennis Club (now rezoned). We also took advantage of Regional Contribution Agreements, which enabled us to give money to poorer communities to build or rehab units for us. That’s no longer permitted.
3) We’re 100000% in the driver’s seat. We have multiple paths to complete our obligations using redevelopment tools and won’t get pushed around by any developer. You will not see a builder’s remedy lawsuit in our town or any loss of immunity. We have invested substantially in comprehensive planning, and we know our redevelopment potential and sites very well.
4) We also deeply value community engagement. It naturally pierces my heart to read when someone says, “We didn’t know about this; what’s going on?”. A quick Google search and you’ll find that any proactive project the township is involved with has extensive engagement with numerous advisory groups, neighborhood meetings, and opportunities for public comments well in advance of a Planning Board hearing. It’s not required by any land use laws; it’s just how we do things and our engagement always results in a better project, literally always.
Last but not least, if you are opposed to the projects we’re doing and/or proposing, I would love to hear the alternative you may have to hit our obligation number and how the finances work. This is a numbers game.
Hope this post helps you understand what’s happening right now (and very fast) and the impacts on our community. I have suggestions to improve the bill and will share it with the community shortly.
Here’s a link to understand what’s happening:
- Collum Says Affordable Housing Means Shovels in Ground, Dafis Focuses on Policy, September 2023
- Collum & Dafis: Affordable Housing Is an Equity Issue in Maplewood, South Orange, January 2023
- South Orange Planning Board Rules Favorably on Fair Share/Affordable Housing Settlement, January 2020
- Collum: South Orange Absolutely Committed to Development of Affordable Housing, May 2017