Moorestown approves resolution on affordable housing fund

Following a closed session discussion on Monday, Feb. 8, Moorestown Council unanimously approved a resolution that expressed its intent to bond in the event of an affordable housing funding shortfall. This resolution comes after Moorestown was asked by Burlington County Superior Court Judge Ronald Bookbinder to submit a revised affordable housing plan to the court by Feb. 15.

“It’s something council has done before, when Council on Affordable Housing was still in existence, and is required as a formality to show municipalities’ willingness to bond for money it might need if the funds are depleted. There is no intention or need (to bond) in the future as of now,” borough solicitor Anthony Drollas said.

According to the ordinance, the funding could come from the township’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, consisting of development fees, in-lieu payments and other revenue, and governmental sources including the Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits program, New Jersey Balanced Housing funds, HUD funding, Federal Home Loan Bank Board financing, HMFA bond financing and Burlington County Home funds.

The township would only have to bond the money if funding from its initial sources runs out. If the township were in need of bonding due to an affordable housing shortfall, an ordinance would have to be approved.

This resolution is part of the revised affordable-housing plan Moorestown must submit to court, as asked by Bookbinder and court-appointed special master Elizabeth McKenzie to remain in compliance with affordable housing, which it maintains, according Drollas. Those revised plans were due Feb. 15. The revised plans will also hopefully settle the matter between Fair Share Housing Center and Moorestown Township, officials said.

Last year, Fair Share Housing Center, an organization devoted to defending the housing rights of New Jersey’s poor, feeling Moorestown was not living up to its affordable housing obligations, retained an expert witness who said Moorestown needed more than 1,400 units to be created in the next few years, according to Drollas. Moorestown, along with other municipalities, prepared an opinion that was available at the end of last year that only requires 171 units, based on a new calculation by a consulting firm, Econsult Solutions Inc. of Philadelphia. Both are in court over this matter.

The discrepancy in numbers is not uncommon. The problem of affordable housing is widespread throughout the state, and intensified last year when the state Supreme Court decided to hand regulation over to the judges after COAH failed to create new guidelines and was dissolved. According to Drollas, the numbers are based on a number of assumptions and calculations, which are different with each firm.

“The truth is it is very complicated … Ultimately, it will be up to the court to decide the number (of affordable houses for Moorestown). It could be one number or the other, higher or lower, or in between,” Drollas said.