New Affordable Housing Regulations – Serious Negative Effect on Harding

New “3rd Round” COAH (Council on Affordable Housing) regulations were released very recently and they demand that Harding provides far more low income housing than previously expected.

Harding’s obligation will increase from 35 units to between 55 and 130 units, an admittedly wide range that is not possible to sharpen without further study of the 3rd round release. These units must be built between now and 2024.

As well, 13% of the units must be for “very low” income residents (defined as essentially Section 8 housing).

Harding has until April of 2015 to submit a plan to comply with the edict.

And the news gets worse. . .

Unlike in the past, a municipality gets no “bonus credit” for building rental units. The rules used to give a bonus for providing a rental unit rather than a unit for sale. Harding had earned some of these COAH bonus credits because the units at The Farm at Harding (Woodland and Kitchell Roads) are all rental units. These previously earned credits have been eliminated.

Also, municipalities cannot make a payment to another town or city to satisfy its COAH obligation. This was the case several years ago and it is why some residents Thumbnail has spoken to were (wrongly) sanguine when first told about the new obligation. Unfortunately they are mistaken. COAH in its infinite bureaucratic wisdom wants the low income housing built in every town in NJ – whether there are jobs or public transportation near by. The lack of public transportation and nearby jobs could wipe out all or at least a portion of the savings from the low cost housing.

COAH rules also disregard local zoning and lack of infrastructure . Harding zones large lots in many areas – 3 and 5 acres. And most of the township has no sewer system or city water. Rather residents often have their own wells and septic beds. Too bad…COAH seems to assume that a township’s large lot zoning and lack of civil engineering infrastructure is a strategy to keep out low income people. So COAH regulations trump local zoning and demand that the town provide water and sanitary infrastructure no matter the cost.

So the cost to build these required units could be very high given the high cost of land in Harding and the need to build infrastructure. The fact that the amount Harding and other municipalities will have to spend could put many more roofs over peoples’ heads in other locations is irrelevant. COAH and the judges that confirm it want the housing built in every single town and city in NJ no matter the cost or absence of jobs or transportation. It appears to be about social engineering rather than home building.

Lastly, COAH does not care about open space preservation. COAH’s mission and goals conflict rather directly with the mission and goals of another Trenton agency – Highlands Act which tries to preserve open space. A resident of a town that is attempting to preserve its rural character would be forgiven for feeling whipsawed by what comes out of Trenton and our courts.