Affordable housing obligations reduced in South Brunswick

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SOUTH BRUNSWICK – The third round affordable housing obligation for South Brunswick has been reduced from 2,907 units to 1,417 units.

A decision rendered on Dec. 5 in state Superior Court, New Brunswick, by Judge Arthur Bergman states the court denied South Brunswick’s application to reconsider court decisions from July 21, 2016, and Oct. 6, 2016, pertaining to the township’s fair share obligation, including a 1,000-unit cap set forth in a county-wide opinion from Oct. 15, 2015.

South Brunswick’s application for approval of credits was granted in part, according to the decision on Dec. 5. The township may apply 124 credits against its third round housing obligations based upon extension of affordability controls for low and moderate income housing in the Charleston Place I and II development, and the Deans Apartments/Woodhaven development.

The township’s other requests for credits were denied.

As a result, South Brunswick’s traditional present need is 109 units. The third round 2015-25 prospective need obligation is 1,533 units, but is capped at 1,000. The township’s third round gap period 1999-2015 obligation is 1,374 units, but applying the 124 credits reduces it to 1,250. This obligation is phased equally over three 10-year planning cycles. The portion of the obligation to be met in the 2015-25 cycle is 417 units.

Therefore, South Brunswick’s net third round obligation is 1,417 units of new construction and 109 units of rehabilitation.

Township officials filed a motion in Superior Court last year seeking to vacate the orders issued in 2016 concerning affordable housing obligations.

The township based its motion on public documents that supported its contention that Judge Douglas K. Wolfson violated his obligation to maintain an appearance of impartiality when making decisions concerning South Brunswick in 2016, according to a statement prepared at the time by Township Attorney Don Sears.

On Oct. 5, 2017, in a 54-page decision, Wolfson rejected the conclusions of a study produced by Econsult Solutions Inc., Philadelphia. Wolfson found that Econsult departed multiple times from the state’s fair housing laws, including regulations established by the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), in an attempt to artificially lower municipal obligations, according to a statement released last year.

Wolfson also rejected the municipalities’ arguments that the Appellate Division’s gap period decision permitted them to ignore the fair housing need that accumulated during the 16-year gap period beginning in 1999 — a period that included the Great Recession, superstorm Sandy, a wave of casino foreclosures and an ongoing foreclosure crisis.

In addition to the 842 units the township has already done for the period 1983-99, Wolfson ordered that the township do another 1,374 units for the period 1999-2015 and 1,533 units for the period 2015-25, for a total of an additional 2,907 units.

Sears said the township fully satisfied its entire 842-unit obligation for the period of 1987-99 by building 882 units, in 22 different projects, resulting in a 40 unit/credit surplus toward the future third round obligation.

“South Brunswick has previously met its Round 1 and Round 2 (842 units) obligations. Presumably, after 2025, there will be a Round 4 obligation, with additional affordable units required at that future time,” Mayor Charles Carley said. “South Brunswick, like its neighboring towns, will be required to address the current obligation by relying on developers’ remedy, or inclusive, developments where the affordable units component are a fraction of the total project. So, when the courts obligate a town to provide a number of affordable units there is a high chance there will be four or five times as many units built overall.”