Maplewood is hoping to accelerate the rate of rehabilitation for units of affordable housing due to an influx of contributions from developers.
Mayor Vic DeLuca reported that the town has rehabilitated more than 50 units but is obligated to rehab another 91 units of housing as per the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing (COAH). “That is $1.8 million toward which we hope to use developer contributions,” the mayor said in a follow up email. “There are 11 families on the rehab waiting list, not all of whom meet the income qualifications.”
DeLuca said that the town had not performed an intensive recruitment campaign to solicit more units for rehab “because we are going at a snail’s pace.” The mayor told The Village Green, “We have been doing 2 or 3 units each year with local funds included in our capital budget.” However, he said, with payments coming in from developers, the town should now be able to move faster and rehabilitate more units. (For example, Avalon Bay, the designated developer for the PSE&G site will make a $340,000 contribution to the Township’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, as well as create six affordable housing units.)
DeLuca was providing the update to the Township Committee after receiving an update from community grants, planning and housing consultant Megan York at the town’s Affordable Housing Board meeting.
DeLuca reported that “in the last few years we’ve created 21 units of affordable housing.” He listed four units at the Station House on Dunnell Road, 16 units at Maplewood Crossing on Burnett Avenue, and one unit on Boyden Avenue. DeLuca said that there was a waiting list of 3,000 names for affordable housing units.
“We don’t know if all of these people are qualified. We draw it down as units are available,” said DeLuca. He said that the town had decided not to add any more names to the waiting list at the current time so as “not to give false hope to people.”
DeLuca said that the Affordable Housing Board also discussed housing for homeless veterans and getting foreclosed units “back on the roles” (DeLuca said there are about 50 homes in Maplewood in foreclosure). Regarding foreclosures, DeLuca said that the town would be meeting with NJ Community Capital. “They own the paper on four properties in Maplewood,” said DeLuca. “We’re working with them to get someone in.” He said the town was also talking to Habitat for Humanity about doing a rehab or “we might even do a new unit.”
DeLuca had harsh words for Gov. Chris Christie and his administration’s handling of COAH. “We did hear from our redevelopment attorney and I think the best thing to say about COAH is that it is chaos. The Governor is not doing anything to advance its work. In fact he has implemented policies that are preventing it from working.”
As NJ.com reported, the New Jersey State Supreme Court heard arguments in January related to “what affordable housing advocates called COAH’s 15 years of brazen inaction.” COAH’s guidelines expired in 1999 and the Christie administration has not created new guidelines despite court orders to do so. Affordable housing advocates and the New Jersey Builders Association are asking “the court strip municipalities of the protections that prevent builders and civil rights groups from filing lawsuits to force affordable housing.”
“We’ll see what the supreme court says,” said DeLuca. “The worst ruling would be a developers remedy where a developer can sue a town — even one that has protections like us.” This could result on higher density developments being forced on the town, said DeLuca. However, he added, “We have a certified plan that says how we are going to meet our obligation.”