Ocean County Lawmakers Warn: 55+ Communities Under Fire

Ninth District lawmakers from left, Diane Gove, Brian Rumpf and Senator Chris Connors. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  MANCHESTER – Ninth District Lawmakers visited the senior communities, warning them to keep an eye on legislation that would allow people younger than 55 to buy into the developments.

  The bill, S-2537, and its Assembly counterpart, A-4106, would allow any property owner in a senior community to sell to a buyer regardless of age. Realtors and others are supporting this change, saying it allows seniors to live in a property while deeding it to their children so they won’t pay more if they go into assisted living. They also note that the senior community guidelines would still enforce that the person living there would be a senior.

  Opposition to this bill note that it’s already challenging to know who is living in a home, and that there are school bus stops in the senior communities. They worry that this bill would turn a senior community into a normal neighborhood, fill up the schools, bring up taxes, and impact quality of life. They also note that senior communities already allow the deed to pass to someone’s child. They worry that property moguls are going to buy up the senior communities and rent them out instead of allowing retirees to have a place of their own.

  Senator Christopher Connors, Assemblywoman DiAnne Gove, Assemblyman Brian Rumpf (all R-9th) and their chief of staff Jay Smith came to Manchester recently to speak out against the bill. They were the guests of the Manchester Township Coordinating Council which is made up of each of the township’s age-restricted communities.

  Connors said S-2537 was introduced by the chairperson (Sen. Troy Singleton) of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee which Connors said he is a member of. “With respect to him, I feel he is misguided with this piece of legislation which would allow units to be sold to individuals that do not meet the age parameter.”

  An individual could be less than 55 years of age and purchase a unit in an age restricted community under the proposed legislation. Conners said current law states you have to have at least one person that lives in a dwelling unit that meets the age restriction of the community. For a 55+ community, 80% of them must meet the age restriction. For 62+, 100% have to be of that age.

Ninth District Senator Chris Connors, seated at left holding the microphone, joins Assemblywoman Diane Gove, Assemblyman Brian Rumpf and Manchester Coordinating Council legislative liaison Judy Noonan during a recent MCC meeting. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  “It is very difficult to monitor that,” Sen. Connors added. “If you don’t meet those parameters you could essentially lose your certification to be able to have an age restricted community. How do you monitor that? One of the ways that we always felt was to guarantee that those who bought the units were 55 and over and that would be easier to monitor than it would be if we just open it up. 

  “There always seems to be an assault on our common interest communities,” Connors said. “Legislation throughout time immemorial – during my initial tenure in the legislature going back to 1989 – there has always been some form of legislation which is attempting to put into statutory law, provisions that were done for common interest communities.”

  He told the audience, “you have always enjoyed self-governance throughout the years, some of the legislation that has been proposed were a result of problems that occurred in other parts of the state.

  “When it comes to Trenton, there is always an assumption that (Trenton) can run things better and as a result legislation has been introduced over the course of the last 20 years that would change the way common interest communities would organize themselves and how they would represent their own communities. We happen to believe that is a misstep and the wrong thing to do,” Sen. Connors said.

  He said he didn’t feel all common interest communities have the same problems “that some of the other communities had in the northern part of the state. We don’t need intercession from Trenton to tell us how we should run.”

  The Senator said, “you retired to these communities for a specific reason, you wanted to be able to determine how you lived and you wanted to protect yourselves which is why they call it a common interest community – because the interests are common for the people that live there. The biggest strategy in Trenton seems to be to want to open up the common interest communities to individuals that may not share the same interests to the people that organize them and have run them all these years.”

  Connors warned the MCC that such efforts involve, “individuals that don’t meet the age restrictions that we currently have.” He noted that age restriction was only allowed under state regulations in relation to common interest communities which is why 55 and older or 62 and older communities can exist.

  Gove and Rumpf echoed Connors remarks denouncing the current legislation posed by Sen. Singleton and co-sponsored by other legislators that would impact common interest communities and vowed to provide updates to the MCC about the issue. They urged residents to communicate their dislike of the legislation to those in Trenton.

  Berkeley Township Council has enacted an ordinance that codifies senior communities’ age restriction, essentially making the town able to enforce it.