Cranbury Township, Middlesex County, New Jersey

Presentation by Mark Berkowsky, President, Cranbury Housing Associates, Inc.

Cranbury Township Affordable Housing Application Form

For Applewood Court Affordable Housing
To have an application mailed to you, please call: (609) 786-1102, press 5
Inquiries can be submitted to:  Cranbury@HousingQuest.com

CRANBURY TOWNSHIP AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING

The Cranbury community has long been involved in promoting affordable housing.  A history of Cranbury Township’s involvement with affordable housing up through 2008 has been provided below by Cranbury Housing Associates (CHA).

Since the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) was created, the Township Committee and Planning Board have prepared affordable housing plans which were submitted to and approved by COAH. CHA has implemented these affordable housing plans for Cranbury Township. Cranbury Township Committee has worked closely with Cranbury Housing Associates (CHA), Carteret Borough, and the City of Perth Amboy to provide all the affordable housing required by the 1st and 2nd rounds of compliance.  Recently the Township began work on the 3rd round. 

Township has provided funding for the affordable housing with residential and non-residential construction fees collected by the Township’s Construction Office.  The Township has also borrowed $4,000,000 to pay for the rounds of affordable housing.  Currently, the Township is expecting $300,000 in a Middlesex County Home grant to help to offset the costs of the most recent addition to Cranbury Township’s affordable housing located on Old Cranbury Road.  This housing is part of Cranbury Township’s 3rd round obligation.

 
History of CHA & Affordable Housing in Cranbury
June 30, 2008

Cranbury Housing Associates, Inc. or CHA as it is commonly known is a volunteer non-profit corporation originally organized in 1963, consisting mostly of Cranbury residents. 

The initial objectives of CHA were to improve and provide for the housing needs of the low-income, disadvantaged and permanent residents of the area.  In those early years, from its start in 1963 to the mid- 1980’s, it was a hands-on organization, with many of the projects undertaken with volunteer labor and minimum financial input.  After the “Mount Laurel” decision in 1984, it shifted its focus to a management organization, seeking public and private funding, designing, constructing and developing new projects and managing the rental and sale of past projects.  CHA has worked in partnership with the Township helping Cranbury to meet its original and continuing COAH obligations.

The provisions for affordable housing in the State of New Jersey were changed forever with the decisions of New Jersey’s Supreme Court in response to zoning challenges in Mount Laurel, NJ.  The “Mount Laurel” decision originally required Cranbury to provide for 816 low and moderate income dwelling units.  One option to meet this requirement was the “Builder’s Remedy” which allowed a developer to build four market priced units for every one affordable unit constructed.  This would have meant that over 4000 new units would be developed (over 3000 of which would be market price).  Cranbury had a total of less than 800 dwelling units at the time.  Cranbury was also sued by several developers to satisfy the Supreme Court’s requirements.  In July of 1984, the Superior Court ordered Cranbury to change its zoning to accommodate the 816 units. The Court’s remedy was then put on hold due to the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1985, and the creation of the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH).

Cranbury requested the jurisdiction of its affordable housing requirements be changed from the Court to COAH.  The first action COAH took was to reduce Cranbury’s “Fair Share” number to 187 units.  Cranbury had to prepare revised zoning requirements to accommodate that number.  Under the “Builder’s Remedy” option, the overall impact to Cranbury would still have been over 1,000 new units.  A developer, who had an option on property east of Route 130, offered to fund the entire Mt. Laurel obligation, including almost 700 of the market priced units.  In order to meet COAH’s deadline of December 31, 1986, Cranbury accepted this proposal.

During the public review period, there were two objectors to the developer’s plan.  One was the Civic League of New Brunswick, who thought not enough affordable housing was being developed, and the other was the Cranbury Historical Society, who thought too much overall housing was being required.  A mediation process was begun among the parties: the Township, the Historical Society and the Civic League.  During the months of negotiation, the overall precredited need was reduced from 187 to 153 units. 

Concerned members of the community asked CHA if it would be the developer of the required affordable housing in order to eliminate the market priced units from the plan and only build the low & moderate housing.  CHA accepted the challenge and because of its past experience and credibility, the plan was accepted by COAH to meet the Township’s requirements. 

On April 24, 1989, Cranbury was granted Substantive Certification of its affordable housing plan.  This certification gave Cranbury the protection from the filing of lawsuits or challenges to its zoning for a period of six years.  This was extremely important as the pressure of residential development was felt in all areas of the state and especially in the central New Jersey area, both in Cranbury as well as its neighboring municipalities.

Of the 153 units, 76 were transferred to Perth Amboy through a Regional Contribution Agreement or RCA.  The Township paid $25,000 per unit to rehabilitate 76 units in Perth Amboy, to provide affordable housing in Cranbury’s region.  Of the remaining 77 homes to be built, Cranbury received a bonus credit of ten, based on the fact that 50% of the units were rental, reducing the affordable housing requirement to 67 units.  Of that number, nine existing houses were to be rehabilitated, 19 were to be new senior citizen rental units, and 39 were to be new family units. 

For the rehabilitation requirements, CHA assisted two private low income property owners in the rehabilitation of their houses.  In addition, CHA again renovated the “Pin Oaks” property and added one unit, creating a total of seven units.

The senior citizen requirements were met via the development of a 20-unit senior citizens rental housing project.  It was funded by a grant from the Department of Community Affairs Balanced Housing Fund and a 50 year, one percent mortgage from the Farmer’s Home Administration (FmHA).  The site, approximately 2 acres, is in the middle of the village on property that was formerly tennis courts owned by the School Board and the Township.  The development success was due in part to the design being compatible with the character of the historic district.

The new family unit requirements were met on three sites:
In negotiating a zoning issue with a private developer on South Main Street, the Township received a 16-acre site to be used for affordable housing and a park.  CHA developed a 24-unit family housing project: designing it, receiving public support, receiving funding from the Township and private sources, and having the homes constructed.  The site on Bergen Drive has 4 buildings consisting of 5 units each and one building with 4 units.  Five units are owned by CHA and are rented, while the other 19 units were sold.  The buildings consist of one and two bedroom units.

At the same time that the Bergen Drive site was being developed, the Township also received property from another developer further south on South Main St. This allowed CHA to site two 5-unit buildings (one and two bedroom units) on Danser Drive and three duplex buildings with three bedroom units each on South Main St.  Of the 16 units that were built, a five unit building is owned by CHA and is rented.  The balance of the units was sold.

With completion of the 40 units, Cranbury’s affordable housing requirements were satisfied, but only for a short time.  COAH required a second round of affordable housing and this time Substantive Certification was granted to Cranbury’s plan on December 4, 1996.  Due to Cranbury’s pro-active approach to meet their first round obligations, credits were granted for the second round. Of the 51 units required for new construction, 34 units were transferred to Carteret through an RCA at a cost of $20,000 per unit. The Township’s requirements could have been met with the construction of nine new units and a rental credit of nine units.  Anticipating the new need and future need, a piece of property adjacent to the Township’s Village Park which would accommodate 16 units, was purchased.  CHA was asked to develop this site on Bennett Place and construction began in August of 2001 with occupancy September of 2002.

The “Parkside” project consists of 16 units, using a similar design to the previous projects on Bergen Drive, Danser Drive and South Main Street.  The compatible design of two- one and two bedroom- five unit buildings and three duplex buildings were repeated.  All of these units are owned by CHA and rented to qualified low and moderate income individuals and families.

The “Pin Oak” project, one of the original affordable housing projects undertaken by CHA in the 1960’s and renovated twice since, was demolished and the residents moved to the “Parkside” project.  The original migrant farm workers camp had finally outlived its use as a viable site for housing.

In 2004, the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) revised its rules for providing affordable housing.

Under that “Growth Share” concept, the Township submitted its Third Round Plan, in November of 2005, which outlined an anticipated 160 unit requirement.  Of that total, 80 were to be transferred to Perth Amboy at a cost of $35,000 per unit under an RCA.  Credits of 20 for providing rental units and very low income units was also anticipated.  CHA’s latest project is located on Old Cranbury Road.  It consists of 20 units – 4 one bedroom, 12 two bedroom and 4 three bedroom units.  The other site to meet Cranbury’s original Third Round number is an almost four acre site located on Route 130, which the Township purchased last year.  Approximately 36 units are scheduled to be developed.

Sometimes, the process of developing affordable housing is difficult because everyone is concerned for their own property values as well as the impact on the town.  The reason CHA took on the task of developing the housing to meet the court mandated Mt. Laurel requirements was to provide the necessary affordable housing, but to also take it out of government control and reduce costs, and take it away from private developers, so that it could be developed to meet the true needs and interests of the residents of Cranbury.

The guiding principles have remained the same:

  • Integrate affordable housing throughout the community
  • Design and construct quality buildings to be compatible with their neighbors
  • Provide a high level of maintenance to maintain the quality of the developments

For the Round 1 and Round 2 projects, CHA has developed them without the use of any local taxpayer funds. It was accomplished by obtaining grants and mortgages from various state and federal agencies, and mortgages and loans from local banks and money from the Township’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF). 

This funding method “AHTF” allows Cranbury to receive contributions from developers as they construct residential and commercial buildings in Cranbury. The proceeds from this fund were used to defray expenses for previous affordable housing projects.  The Fund currently is depleted.

COAH’s original Third Round Rules were challenged in court and were revised.  Cranbury’s previously submitted Third Round Plan will be revised, based on the changes in COAH’s requirements as well as new legislation.

A final disposition of the requirements for Round Three as well as Cranbury’s solutions, may be delayed due to pending lawsuits and future legislation.  However, a plan needs to be submitted by the end of the year to COAH, to prevent “Builder’s Remedy” lawsuits.

Summary of Cranbury’s Affordable Housing Obligations and Compliance

Round One & Round Two Compliance
June 30, 2008

RCA’s – Perth Amboy & Carteret

110

Family Rentals – CHA at Bergen Dr., Danser Dr. & Bennett Place

26

Rental Bonuses

26

Senior Rentals – CHA at Park Place West

20

Rental Bonuses

7

Family Sales – CHA at Bergen Dr., Danser Dr. & So. Main St.

30

Substantial Compliance Bonus

13

Total Provided

232

Total Required

223

Surplus Carried to Round Three

9

 

Summary of Cranbury Housing Associates
New Affordable Housing Projects developed in Cranbury
June 30, 2008

Park Place West - Senior Rental -1990

20

Bergen Drive - Family Rental - 1997

5

Bergen Drive - Family Sales -  1997

19

Danser Drive - Family Rental - 1998

5

Danser Drive - Family Sales - 1998

5

So. Main Street - Family Sales - 1998

6

Bennett Place - Family Rental - 2002

16

Old Cranbury Road – Family Rental - 2008

20

Total

96

 

 

Summary

 

Senior Rental

20

Family Rental

46

Family Sales

30

Total

96