Affordable Housing at a Glance

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:

  1. The hydrogeology of the region limits severely the high density development required for affordable housing
    1. West Amwell is served entirely by private septic
    2. West Amwell is almost entirely served by private wells
  2. Much of the undeveloped land in the township is either preserved (43%) or environmentally sensitive (e.g. 8.2% total land area is wetlands)
  3. West Amwell is a bedroom community with few local employment opportunities
  4. West Amwell has no public transportation infrastructure
  5. The cost of construction in West Amwell is significantly higher than the surrounding area

Our Solution

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.