Maplewood is one of the latest communities in New Jersey — and the first in Essex County — to certify its Fair Share and Affordable Housing Plan.
The history of affordable housing requirements in New Jersey is a long and convoluted one (see NJ Spotlight’s Explainer here), that has led, some argue, to New Jersey having the most segregated public schools in the U.S. Following a lawsuit and a NJ Superior Court decision last March, Maplewood is one of hundreds of towns that is settling litigation with the Fair Share Housing Center over meeting its affordable housing requirement.
“For the last three years, Superior Court judges in New Jersey have been approving municipal housing plans that specify how many affordable homes communities must zone for and where they may be built,” Colleen O’Dea wrote on NJ Spotlight in November. O’Dea explained that the agreements do not require municipalities to build housing, but rather, “They are blueprints allowing for the construction of affordable homes.”
Maplewood’s certified “blueprint,” announced by Mayor Vic DeLuca at the December 4, 2018 Township Committee meeting, states that Maplewood’s affordable housing obligation from 1999 through to 2025 is 444 units (see the agreement below).
“Of those 444, we received credit for 82,” DeLuca explained in a phone interview last month. “That includes some units (20) on Irvington Avenue that are for senior citizens,” 34 new affordable housing units built in all the developments “open right now” (there are more coming in some of the projects currently in development), and 7 in a group home — for a total of 61. For those 61, DeLuca reported that Maplewood received a bonus of 21 “because we are above our family requirement.”
That brings the total to 82 credits, with 362 remaining to be met.
DeLuca calls that number of 362 “an aspiration.”
“It’s an unmet need. You work towards that number,” the mayor explained. “We’re doing that by adopting a 15% affordable housing requirement.” The town formerly required 10% affordable housing from new developments — or a contribution to the town’s affordable housing fund. But there will be “no more contributing to the fund instead,” said DeLuca. “We’re building.”
DeLuca said that the new apartments on Valley (across from Columbia High School, the new 33-unit apartment building by Mark Carelli on Springfield Avenue (the former Jewelry mart), and any other new development will all be under the 15% affordable unit requirement going forward. “Those will be incremental units that we put on as we go forward,” said DeLuca.
The senior assisted living development recently approved in the Hilton neighborhood will contribute 91 units to the total.
The next part of the plan — the development of the Maplewood Country Club — is something DeLuca calls “unlikely” to happen but something that ensures that affordable housing will be built should the property ever be developed.
“We rezoned the Maplewood Country Club to make sure that, if it ever gets developed, it will be developed on a scale of 8 units per acre.” DeLuca noted that at 89 acres, the property is “a lot of acres … so the total is 712. It’s unlikely that this is going to happen. Avalon Maplewood, for example, is 4 acres. So that 20% affordable or 142 units.”
Again, DeLuca called the prospect of the Country Club being developed as housing “unlikely … between now and 2025” but said the agreement would guarantee that the affordable component be at 20%.
DeLuca noted that if the Country Club is NOT developed as housing by 2025, there is no penalty: “It’s there to secure the development of affordable housing if it gets developed.” For those who would criticize the re-zoning and inclusion of the property in the total, DeLuca said, “The overlay zone has been in effect through all of our COAH [Council on Affordable Housing] years. … This is nothing new.”
That leaves about 100 units to meet the 444 obligation.
“The rest is incremental,” said DeLuca.
At at his State of the Township speech on Jan. 1, DeLuca also explained that the Township was planning to work with a nonprofit developer to purchase two single-family homes and use its affordable housing trust fund to renovate and sell the homes as affordable. Read DeLuca’s full comments on affordable housing from this State of the Township address here:
To all of our credit, people want to live here. Unfortunately, not everyone can. Our hot real estate market is pricing out some buyers and renters and making it more difficult for folks, particularly our seniors, to stay in their homes.
To help our seniors, we worked with Assemblywoman Mila Jasey on an outreach initiative to ensure that senior homeowners take advantage of state rebates and property tax relief programs. And we adopted a new ordinance permitting seniors to take into their homes two individual borders or a couple. This shared housing program will allow seniors to bring in extra money to cover their housing costs and give them an opportunity for more companionship. Our task now is to spread the word among our seniors and develop a mechanism to help them find prospective borders.
We also moved forward with our affordable housing obligations. In November we received judicial approval of our Fair Share and Affordable Housing Plan, becoming the first municipality in Essex County to do so. It seems fitting that we accomplished this in 2018, the 50th Anniversary of President Johnson’s signing of the Fair Housing Act, which sought to eliminate housing discrimination and residential segregation in our nation.
Our affordable housing plan requires developers to set aside 15 percent of new apartments for 30 years to house families meeting income guidelines. In addition, the Maplewood Housing Rehabilitation Program will provide $20,000 in forgivable loans to assist eligible Maplewood households to make repairs to meet health and safety codes. And we will undertake a homeownership program that will subsidize the purchase and rehabilitation of two existing foreclosed or vacant houses and sell each of them to an eligible family.