Readington Township Affordable Housing Settlement:
On July 15th 2019, Readington Township agreed to a settlement with Fair Share Housing Center (FSHC) to meet its New Jersey Supreme Court Affordable Housing obligation. The Court and FSHC agreed to a waiver for Readington (a durational adjustment) that lowered Readington’s number of credits required to 679 (58% lower than the original FHSC number) to meet the mandate. The total number of newly constructed units/bedrooms that Readington agreed to allow is 881 to meet the 679 credits. In total, 355 of the new units would be designated as Affordable Housing (AH), totaling 40% of new construction, with this agreement. Readington Township created an AH subcommittee of the Planning Board and Township Committee which is also comprised of municipal planners, engineers, attorneys and consultants to make recommendations to the Township Committee on how to best comply with the mandate. Readington and FSHC will now participate in a Fairness Hearing with the Superior Court. If the agreement is acceptable to the Court, Readington will be required to work with all parties to move forward with the mandate. Site plans for development will flow through the normal process of the Planning Board with compliance required with all Township ordinances and zoning.
The 881 new units is a ratio of 1.3 per credit and a potential 14% increase in housing stock in Readington. As has been identified many times in public meetings, the development/redevelopment locations are listed below:
- Readington Commons (Route 22 West, Whitehouse Station) - 254 units (64 affordable units yielding 128 credits with rental bonus)
- Bramco/Interstate Ironworks (Route 22 East/Mullen Road, Whitehouse Station)- 192 units (48 affordable units yielding 96 credits with rental bonus)
- Fox Hollow (Readington/Branchburg border, golf course) - 240 senior/age restricted units (48 affordable units)
- Nelson Street (Whitehouse Station) - 72 units (yielding 144 credits with rental bonus - 100% affordable)
- Diaz property (Route 202, Three Bridges)- 80 units (yielding 145 credits with rental bonus - 100% affordable)
- 2 Railroad Avenue/Harsch (Whitehouse Station) - 43 bedrooms (yielding 63 credits - 100% affordable – senior/special needs/veterans)
Readington developed several creative methods to comply that will not result in new housing construction to generate credits towards the mandate:
- The Township entered into an agreement with Harriet’s Mobile Home Park on Route 22 East in Whitehouse Station to bring that location into AH stock.
- Agreements have been made with Habitat for Humanity to rehab existing homes.
- Existing units in Readington that were found to be eligible for AH inventory were entered into the credits without controls category.
- Extensions of existing controls on existing affordable units were executed
- A market rate to AH program to deed restrict existing homes into affordable stock was funded.
- Credits were maximized from prior AH rounds in order to maximize existing available credits in the current round. Readington fully maximized its allowable bonus credits for the current round.
Cast by the Mount Laurel doctrine for its 4th round Affordable Housing obligations, Readington was assigned a number of 1045 Affordable Housing (AH) credits (not units) in March of last year by the Superior Court to comply with the State mandate. Readington was one of about 10% of NJ municipalities to be certified compliant with 3rd round Council on Affordable Housing rules. The 4th round number was set via a formula determined during a two-and-a-half-year trial ordered by the Supreme Court in Mercer County Superior Court. The trial also determined rules for municipalities on what would and wouldn’t count as AH. The original number assigned to Readington by FSHC was 1603. Municipalities are now subject to this formula to determine their requirement and were tasked with developing plans to comply with the 4th round mandate. Readington is in a shared services cooperative agreement with other municipalities to share attorneys and planners to minimize costs to taxpayers while working to lessen the impacts and working to comply with the mandate.
As the process progressed, Readington successfully argued in court that the full mandate would consume all the municipality’s available sewer treatment capacity leaving no capacity available for any other purposes. This argument resulted in the Court and FSHC agreeing to the waiver for Readington that lowered Readington’s number of credits required today to 679. This will be the number of credits required unless and until there is an expansion of the Readington Lebanon sewer plant.
The AH subcommittee met dozens of times over the past four years to review the ever-changing projected numbers, meet with court recognized interveners (property owners/developers who would want to build to comply with the mandate) and to develop ways to lessen the impacts as much as possible while striving to provide quality Affordable Housing in Readington.
The Township Committee and Planning Board listened to residents’ concerns during this process and responded to those concerns where it was feasible. Three town hall meetings were held to review status, listen to residents’ concerns and questions on this daunting and complex matter. The results are that the three largest complexes being developed are located on the Route 22 corridor spread out over 4+ miles with all three utilizing already developed lands now to be repurposed. Two of the 100% affordable projects are on previously undisturbed lands and the third will redevelop an abandoned and environmentally contaminated site. The reason the AH projects are being sited on or near Route 22 and Route 202 is because that is where the sewer lines are located, and sewer capacity is a requirement for these larger projects.
The Township continues to advocate to our State Legislators and the NJ League of Municipalities for better solutions to provide mandated Affordable Housing in New Jersey. This agreement addresses Readington’s AH obligations through the year 2025 as is the case with all NJ municipalities. The Township will continue to communicate on this topic with the community throughout this on-going process.
More detail on the trial that determined the formula and Superior Court trial can be found here: NJ Spotlight article.