The next chapter in the storied past of New Jersey affordable housing law went into effect on June 8th.
If you recall, on March 10th, the NJ Supreme Court took over the administration of municipal affordable housing obligations after the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) was unable to pass Revised Third Round Rules (See NJ Supreme Court Strip Affordable Housing From COAH). How they are going to go about this is still unclear but many towns are wasting no time to protect themselves from potential Builder’s Remedy Lawsuits.
From June 8th to July 8th, the NJ Supreme Court will be accepting applications for declaratory judgment; an acknowledgment by the courts that municipality has and is acting in good faith to comply with NJ’s Fair Housing Act of 1985. If approved, towns will receive protection against Builder’s Remedy Lawsuits as they did while COAH was facilitating the process.
Riverdale had a plan in place and it was decided at the March 11th Council Meeting, that Borough Attorney Robert Oostdyk would contact our COAH consultant, Robert Michaels, in preparation for this first phase. At the June 10th Council Meeting Oostdyk reported that a resolution will be presented for approval at the June 24th meeting so that Riverdale could file for declaratory judgment before the July 8th deadline.
Meanwhile the old Verizon Building on Newark-Pompton Turnpike continues to bring in revenue for Riverdale as a parking facility for area car dealerships. The borough purchased the property with money from our Affordable Housing Trust Fund. As a result, this property must eventually be utilized for affordable housing or else the full purchase price of the property would need to be returned to the trust fund.
No plans for this property have been formalized or presented to the Council since the proposed four-story, sixty unit apartment building was preempted by public outcry (see Affordable Housing Project Thumbs Down in Riverdale). The Council’s position currently is to wait for new guidelines to be drafted by the state. If you have been following my articles, you understand that affordable housing legislation in NJ is a conundrum who rules are ever changing. We could develop the property now only to find out later that the homes we sponsored no longer qualify as affordable housing. New guidelines may also provide alternatives to concentrated affordable housing developments such as the one originally proposed. Rehabilitation of single-family homes and group housing for those with special needs are just a couple examples of alternatives that had appeared in previous iterations of the “Rules”.
Whatever form that affordable housing law takes in the months to come, you can bet that Riverdale’s obligations will be at the forefront of borough politics. Stayed tuned to Eye of Riverdale for regular updates as this new chapter unfolds.