BARNEGAT – The Township settled part of its affordable housing obligation, amounting to 121 units that township officials said are already accounted for.
Several Ocean County towns recently settled in court with the Fair Share Housing Center. This is the latest incarnation of the Supreme Court-designated party that is responsible for ensuring that towns build a realistic portion of low-to-moderate housing. Previous versions referred to this obligation as the Counsel On Affordable Housing and the Mount Laurel agreement, after that town was accused of zoning its entire town for large homes only, essentially zoning poor people out of the town.
According to the settlement, the township’s obligation for the years of 2015 through 2025 is 121 units.
The settlement is 30 percent less than the Fair Share Housing Center was originally asking. The settlement does not cover any previous obligations, particularly the gap period.
Mayor John Novak said there is a gap period of several years when COAH did not make any decisions on towns. So, there is potential that there could still be more obligations coming from that.
“(Superior Court Judge Mark) Troncone had ruled that the right to affordable housing is constitutional, and the constitution doesn’t sleep,” he said. Therefore, the obligation is still needed.
“Barnegat Township has been very pro-active about requiring developers to provide low and moderate housing all around,” he said, so it might not amount to any additional requirements.
John Hess, the planning board engineer, said that all 121 units, and then some, are either built or on the way already.
Among them are the Paramount Escapes Ocean Breeze, under construction off Route 9. The development shares space with Stafford, but there are 57 affordable units in Barnegat.
Stone Hill Estates, under construction, will have two units. Patriot’s Cove rental apartments, which are finished, has 46 units. Whispering Hills rental apartments, which are finished, have 34 units.
Laurel Oaks, which is finished, has 46 credits. A development on the corner of Route 9 and Georgetown Boulevard, which had its ribbon cutting on December 8, has 44 credits.
There are also two group homes for special needs residents with a total of six credits. Units and credits essentially mean the same thing, Hess said, except that towns get bonus credits for rental units, and these haven’t been tallied for the town yet.
According to the League of Municipalities website, credits are in relation to supportive or special needs housing, family rental housing, or very low income housing.
These approved developments amount to 235 units or credits toward the present requirement of 121 units, Hess said. So, if and when COAH requires additional units from the gap period, Barnegat will have a cushion.
“We have enough units in credits, in our opinion, that the township will have met the obligation,” Hess said.