Affordable Housing In West Amwell
Affordable Housing obligations have been forced upon all the municipalities in New Jersey through a series of controversial state superior court decisions known as the Mount Laurel doctrine. In essence, the decision mandates that we use our local zoning powers in an “affirmative manner*” to provide “realistic opportunities” for the production of low and moderate income housing.
Facts and Resources
West Amwell has a Housing Element & Fair Share Plan which was updated in 2019. This document spells out the requirements agreed to by the Fair Share Housing Center and the Township. It offers a wealth of information on the history, present state, and future of the program.
Our “first round obligation” was 16 units – our “second round obligation” is 117 units.
We are not obligated to build them, just to provide a plan to accommodate them into our community.
This number (which we continue to assert is unrealistic) was forced upon us despite the following arguments:
- The hydrogeology of the region limits severely the high density development required for affordable housing
- West Amwell is served entirely by private septic
- West Amwell is almost entirely served by private wells
- Much of the undeveloped land in the township is either preserved (43%) or environmentally sensitive (e.g. 8.2% total land area is wetlands)
- West Amwell is a bedroom community with few local employment opportunities
- West Amwell has no public transportation infrastructure
- The cost of construction in West Amwell is significantly higher than the surrounding area
After researching and proposing a wide variety of approaches, none of which were deemed suitable to the Fair Share Housing Center and the Court, we engaged an expert planning consultant to provide a fresh look at the problem.
This led to the creation of the Village Marketplace Redevelopment Plan which satisfied both the court and the Fair Share Housing Center. This is not a plan – rather it is more of a framework under which a developer could build a number of market rate housing units along with a number of affordable housing units. It is by no means ideal and is a compromise that the Township was forced to make with the Fair Share Housing Center. Further, it is not in any way connected to the Route 31 Redevelopment Effort.