Affordable Housing Discussion
"The Council objects to the fact that Toms River Township for the third round has the highest obligation for Affordable Housing in the state of New Jersey," said Toms River Councilman George Wittmann.
The Township is questioning some of the factors used to determine low-income housing, including available open land and median income. "Despite the fact that when you rank Ocean County, it has a jobs deficit of about 145,000 jobs versus the number of folks looking for jobs. So, if you add in affordable housing units, and one of the criteria is to have affordable housing where the jobs are, if you have a deficit of that magnitude it doesn't make sense to build additional affordable housing units in a county and town that has a job deficit over what one of the criteria that's used to select the sites for affordable housing." Wittmann explained.
Wittman said Toms River is below the income level required to show that the town is affordable, by about $10,000 dollars. "The exclusionary housing has a rate of approximately $69,000 in annual income and in Toms River the median income is at $59,000. So, we're certainly not an exclusionary town when you consider the overall population of the Township," Wittman said.
Toms River officials believe the state used incorrect data in determining what land was available for construction of affordable housing and housing in general, according to Wittman. "I think the formula is flawed and that's why we're objecting to it," he said.
The Township is considering possible legal action. "We have an affordable housing professional planner and perhaps we need to have them do a more deep dive into the formula and the criteria for selection for affordable housing units, and the criteria used to give Tom River the distinction of having the largest number of affordable housing units in the state of New Jersey," Wittman said.
"It's a matter of fairness," Wittman pointed out, "When you start to look at Toms River, we're one of the few towns that actually met its obligation and yet other towns get obligations and they haven't met them. So we feel that Toms River has done its fair share and we want other towns to do their fair share, and if you have a law and a regulation it should be equally applied across the entire state, not just Toms River bearing the burden of additional affordable housing units," he said.
Toms River has approximately 650 affordable housing units that have already been constructed, according to Wittman. "And we have on the books another 300 or 400 that have been planned and approved for affordable housing, so we're close to 2,000 units and we'll fully meet our obligation for the second round," Wittman said, adding, "And I don't believe that the third round should have to be put on the backs of Toms River Township residents."
Wittman said he believed taking legal action would allow Toms River to stay that number and potentially reduce it because the Township doesn't believe the formula is accurate or that the distribution is fair.