A stronghold being forced upon New Jersey towns by the Council on Affordable Housing is going to courts across the state ordering additional units be built, but the problem for many towns is they're being mandated to build more units even after they've met the obligation. Shore Assemblyman Sean Kean is proposing a bill to make swift changes.

Sean Kean (Facebook)

Kean's (30th-District) bill being proposed seeks to revive Regional Contribution Agreements (RCA'S) which allowed towns to fill their COAH obligations by giving money to other towns to build affordable housing units in their town.

Essentially a town with the money to pay for units mandated by the court would be able to meet their obligation by working with other towns who were under the amount obligated to them by offering space to them and a check to build units there.

For example, if 'town A' was obligated 10 housing units and they didn't have the room or other reasons to build they could write a check and give money to build affordable housing units to 'town B' to build.

"Towns would be able to rehab existing units and build new units, and the town sending the money would get credit for the unit," said Kean.

He adds towns must foot a bill of approximately tens of thousands of dollars per-unit which means it's a major mandated expense forced on towns by the courts.

The RCA bill was amended which nullified those payment options as of 2008.

Mandated by order of the Mount Laurel Doctrine towns must have a certain amount of affordable housing units which means a big pay-day for developers who are tasked with building those units.

"People and developers are coming and suing the towns and saying, 'we're going to build hundreds of units, then go back to wherever we came from'," said Kean.

He feels the bill being proposed would help municipalities soften their property tax burden.

Bringing back RCA's for the first time since 2008 is a real necessity Kean says because it would provide aid for municipalities involved in arduous court battles in New Jersey over COAH obligations stemming from the Mount Laurel Doctrine.

This resulted in overcrowding in some towns who had to acquiesce to the courts.

"Some decisions are resulting in settlements because the towns are afraid of going through and having trials because they see the attitude of the court," said Kean. "In several cases towns will say 'okay we'll build 500 units because if we don't settle, we're going to have to build 750 units'."

Kean adds some towns who have complied with obligations like Howell and Wall Township's are still being mandated to construct additional units.

Berkeley Township won their battle in court over this matter in 2016 where no settlement was needed as they proved they already had additional units in place and provide funding to upgrade existing units.

Kean says that times have changed since the bill was amended back in 2008 so RCA's need to come alive once again.

"The New Jersey Supreme Court is directing municipalities to build hundreds of units of affordable housing," said Kean. "In many cases they're going to the courts directive. It will change the fabric of many communities by creating suburban sprawl."

However, the bill Kean is proposing is one he says wouldn't eliminate a towns obligation to build new units just help towns work together and find a loop hole in the Mount Laurel decision.

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