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Old 05-18-2009, 12:13 PM
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Top Planner Weighs In On COAH

Analysts say N.J. housing projections are high
Sunday, May 17, 2009
By HARVY LIPMAN
RECORD COLUMNIST

Officials in Trenton say New Jersey towns will need to build more than 115,000 affordable housing units by 2018.

Kevin Walsh says they'll be lucky to build 45,000.

"Those 115,666 units that's absolutely, positively unrealistic under these regulations," said Walsh, associate director of the Fair Share Housing Center in Cherry Hill. "We've gone through all the plans that have been filed by municipalities, and if every single proposed unit is built, there will be no more than 45,000."

Two factors explain the huge discrepancy between the number of affordable units the state Council on Affordable Housing says it's requiring municipalities to build and the actual number likely to be constructed.

The first is a major disagreement between COAH and many municipalities over how it calculated their affordable-housing obligations. The agency says it based its calculations on federal population and job-growth data, then factored in the amount of vacant land available in each town.

But consultants who put together the municipal plans argue that COAH's figures are based on faulty assumptions.

"They looked at vacant land and past development trends and made the assumption that what happened in the past will lead in a straight line to the development through 2018," said Joseph Burgis, a planner in Westwood whose firm prepared several dozen municipal plans. "The fallacy of that approach is that land is not an infinite resource. Once it's developed, it's gone. It's inappropriate to say that if you had all that growth in the '90s it will continue."

Burgis also pointed out that a map purporting to show vacant land, put together by COAH, contains some rather significant flaws.

"In Paramus it includes portions of the Garden State Parkway," he said. "In Morristown it includes a strip of land separating two of the tarmacs at the airport. It also includes some cemeteries."

"We understand some of the vacant land data was not perfect," said Chris Donnelly, spokesman for the state Department of Consumer Affairs, of which COAH is a part. "It was the best available. That's why towns can come in for adjustments."

Also in play is the system of credits and bonuses built into COAH's regulations. Any unit built to house the disabled, for instance, counts twice. Municipalities also get breaks for units rented to very-low-income residents, for units constructed prior to the current round of COAH regulations and for housing paid for by the towns but built in neighboring cities under regional contribution agreements.

"Twenty-five percent of these obligations are bonuses," Walsh said. "There are retroactive credits if units were approved between 2004 and 2008. They don't even have to build them, they just have to be approved by the planning board. The problem is, you can't live in a bonus."

The bottom line:

The 50-odd North Jersey towns that have submitted COAH plans had an obligation to produce just over 13,000 new affordable housing units between 1987 and 2018, the state says. But if their plans are approved by the state, only about 4,000 will end up being created within those municipalities.

According to Lucy Vandenberg, COAH's executive director, the state will finish its review of the town plans in the next couple of months.

E-mail: lipman@northjersey.com

Find this article at:
http://www.northjersey.com/business/..._are_high.html
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Old 05-18-2009, 03:50 PM
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Re: Top Planner Weighs In On COAH

Now see? If they were forced to obey the rules all along, they wouldn't be getting hit so hard now.
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