HOWELL – The Township Council has authorized agreements with four developers who are planning to construct affordable housing in Howell. Matters concerning affordable housing were taken up by municipal officials during a council meeting on Nov. 20.
Attorney Andrew Bayer, who represents Howell on matters dealing with affordable housing, was authorized in August to finalize a settlement agreement with the Fair Share Housing Center, Cherry Hill, which advocates for the construction of affordable housing throughout the state.
Speaking at the Nov. 20 meeting, Bayer said, “This past summer, the council authorized a settlement agreement with the Fair Share Housing Center. Through that agreement, the township agreed its third round affordable housing obligation, which runs from 1999 to 2025, is 895 (affordable housing) units. It was both retrospective and prospective.”
He said an expert retained by the Fair Share Housing Center initially placed Howell’s affordable housing obligation for the same time period at “at least” 1,368 units.
“So this (settlement for 895 units) represented a savings of over 400 units,” Bayer said.
The attorney said if the market rate homes that would have been constructed to subsidize those additional 400 affordable units are taken into account, the settlement represents a savings of 2,000 to 2,500 potential new housing units in Howell.
Bayer said that as of Oct. 9, the two sides had a fully executed settlement agreement. He said the agreement is subject to court approval through a process known as a fairness hearing. Howell’s fairness hearing is scheduled for Dec. 3.
Affordable housing is defined as housing that is sold or rented at below market rates to individuals whose income meets certain guidelines. Under state court rulings, New Jersey municipalities are required to provide opportunities for the development of affordable housing.
Council members passed five resolutions on Nov. 20:
• The first resolution authorized a developer’s agreement with Howell Family Apartments. A 72-unit apartment complex at West Farms and Fort Plains roads, off Route 9 south, will be 100 percent affordable housing. Howell will receive 144 affordable housing credits from this project.
• The second resolution authorized a developer’s agreement with Kenneth Zaback. The 20-acre parcel is on Route 9. There will be 252 market rate housing units and 112 family rental affordable housing units. Howell will receive 36 bonus credits, for a total of of 148 affordable housing credits from this project.
• The third resolution authorized a developer’s agreement with Tyrpak Road Group LLC. The 237-acre parcel would be bisected by Casino Drive. There will be 325 market rate housing units and 142 family rental affordable housing units. Howell will receive 50 bonus credits, for a total of 192 affordable housing credits from this project.
• The fourth resolution authorized a developer’s agreement with FP Howell LLC (Caruso). The location is on Fort Plains Road. There will be 216 market rate housing units and 92 affordable housing units available for purchase. Howell will receive 92 affordable housing credits from this project.
• The fifth resolution amended the settlement agreement with the Fair Share Housing Center to include FP Howell LLC as part of Howell’s compliance plan.
Bayer said FP Howell LLC promised a 30 percent set aside of affordable housing and he recommended that council members accept the agreement. Bayer said Howell will have a 15-unit surplus when the next round of affordable housing regulations begins.
Mayor Theresa Berger voted “no” on the Howell Family Apartments and Tyrpak Road Group resolutions and “yes” on the remaining three resolutions.
Deputy Mayor Robert Nicastro, Councilwoman Evelyn O’Donnell and Councilwoman Pauline Smith voted “yes” on all five resolutions.
Councilman Bob Walsh was absent from the meeting.
During public comment, resident Tina Smilek asked Bayer how many affordable housing units Howell’s representative was negotiating for when the Fair Share Housing Center was asking for more than 1,300 units.
Bayer said the township’s representative was asking for between 300 and 400 units of affordable housing.
Smilek asked if it was fair to say there was a compromise since Howell was asking for 300 to 400 units and the Fair Share Housing Center was asking for more than 1,300 units, and the two sides agreed to settle at 895 units.
Bayer said a ruling by state Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson established criteria for New Jersey and for Howell’s region, which includes Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean counties. He said the two parties used Jacobson’s methodology to arrive at 895 affordable housing units as the township’s obligation.
Smilek said she had a problem with affordable housing “all being done in one area.”
Nicastro said there was a plan to keep the development centralized.
“One thing we did not want to do was spread it all over into the interior parts of Howell. We wanted to keep it in (certain) areas. There were many criteria that were looked into, but I can tell you we wanted the least number of rooftops as possible. Contrary to belief, we all live in Howell, none of us like this. This is a state mandate, so we are trying to preserve the rural characteristics of the township” by keeping the development centralized, Nicastro said.
“Have we talked to anyone at the school district … to see how this (new housing) will affect our school system?” Smilek asked municipal officials.
Jim Herrman, Howell’s director of community development, said the issue has been discussed with school district administrators. He said the administrators are aware of the potential for new housing and have indicated they believe the district can accommodate children who may eventually live in the new homes.