To prevent the state from seizing more than $3 million from the township’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, the approved on Tuesday a plan to spend the money over the next five years on a variety of projects, including housing rehabilitation.
The township was facing a July deadline to adopt a plan to spend the money, according to Andrew Bayer, the township’s housing attorney. In 2008, the state legislature amended the Fair Housing Act to require municipalities that had collected housing development fees from builders to develop a plan to spend the money. If a municipality did not adopt a plan by July 17 to spend the money by 2018, the funds would be transferred to the state.
“If we did not proceed with a spending plan, the funds ($3,620,395) would become added to the state coffers,” Mayor Carl Suraci said. The township plan calls for more than $4 million to be spent because it is anticipated the township will collect an additional $738,186 in builders’ fees in the coming years.
Jennifer Beahm, of CME Associates, the township’s housing consultant, said the money will be spent in four primary areas.
The township will dedicate $1.26 million for the rehabilitation of 19 housing units for low-to-moderate income residents, Beahm said. That works out to about $35,000 per unit.
The township will use $1.2 million to fund three potential supportive housing developers. Beahm said this money would allow developers to buy existing residential dwellings and convert them to supportive housing units, for which the township would receive double bonus affordable housing credits.
SERV Behavioral Health System has requested $125,000 to help fund the purchase of a residence and convert it to a five-bedroom group home to serve very-low income residents.
Community Options Enterprises has asked for $380,000 to purchase two existing homes and convert them for residences for eight developmentally-disabled residents.
The Somerset Home for Temporarily Displaced Children has asked for $700,000 to purchase five dwellings and convert them to housing for 10 young adults leaving the child welfare system.
Plans for the conversions have yet to be submitted to the township.
In addition, the township will spend $1.17 million to help low-income residents afford housing. That assistance includes helping residents with down payments and closing costs, security deposits, housing association fees and rent. The assistance will be available to households earning 30 percent or less of the median income in the region.
About $660,000 will be spent on administrative costs.
Bayer said the plan will be submitted for special approval to a special master in Superior Court, then to the state Department of Community Affairs. Bayer said he was confident the plan will be approved.
The plan will be necessary even if the courts approve Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to abolish the Council on Affordable Housing.
“This is a great plan,” Suraci said, adding that it’s “very prudent.”
Township Committeeman Frank DelCore emphasized that the "well thought-out" plan uses no taxpayer money and “makes sure these dollars are spent here in town."