The Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee will meet on Thursday, January 25 at 10 a.m. to review a host of bills related to affordable housing. This includes S-50, which would overhaul the state’s Fair Housing Act by eliminating the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) and replacing it with a program within the judiciary to resolve disputes related to affordable housing, among other things.
S-50 is a continuation of the efforts by the legislature that began at the end of the last legislative session to make changes to the State’s affordable housing policy. The legislation moved quickly in the Assembly before ultimately being held. No action was taken in the Senate during the last legislative session.
While S-50/A-4 continues what was started in the prior session, there are differences between the current bill and what was previously introduced. One major change to the legislation is the removal of the so-called “Obligations Special Masters” that would have required the Chief Justice to appoint individuals to calculate regional and municipal present and prospective needs. The new legislation would require the Department of Community Affairs to perform this task using the methodology found in the bill and in the unpublished court decision, In re Application of Municipality of Princeton, also known as the “Jacobson opinion.”
The new legislation would eliminate bonus credits for new rental units but includes a bonus credit for rental units that have their affordability controls extended along with additional bonus credits. While the new bill still limits the application of any bonus credits to only those credits specifically authorized through statute, it expands the types of credits from what was in last session’s bill. The latest bill expands on the types of credits available. These credits include:
1. Housing for individuals with special needs or permanent supportive housing;
2. Ownership units created in partnership sponsorship with a non-profit housing developer;
3. Housing located in a Garden State Growth Zone or certain transit-oriented locations;
4. Certain age-restricted housing units;
5. Family housing with at least three bedrooms above the minimum number required by the bedroom distribution in a given development;
6. Housing constructed on certain land previously used for retail, office, or commercial space;
7. Certain existing rental housing for which affordability controls are extended through municipal contributions;
8. Certain 100% affordable developments built through municipal contributions of land or funding; and
9. Certain housing for very low-income households.
While the inclusion of additional credits is welcomed, the new bill includes a cap of 25% on the total of all bonus credits. This cap could hurt development of the very types of housing that is sought through the bonuses themselves.
The bill also clarifies that all parties would be entitled to rely upon regulations on municipal credits, adjustments, and compliance mechanisms previously adopted by COAH unless those regulations are contradicted by statute, including but not limited to this bill, or binding court decisions.
The League is continuing to review the legislation to understand its impact as municipalities continue to meet their affordable housing goals. We urge you to review the legislation to see how it will impact you directly.
We anticipate the Assembly Housing Committee to host a hearing on the Assembly bill, A-4, on Monday January 29.