Democrats Support Affordable Housing Settlement

Madison Councilwoman Maureen Byrne, Mayor Bob Conley, and Madison Planning Board member Rachel Ehrlich express their support for the borough’s affordable housing settlement with the Fair Share Housing Center (FSHC). The settlement allows Madison to continue its proud tradition of making affordable housing available for its residents while ensuring that the town maintains full control of development within its borders.

Read the full article on the Madison Eagle.

MADISON – In a joint prepared statement, Madison Mayor Bob Conley, Councilwoman Maureen Byrne, and Madison Planning Board member Rachel Ehrlich express their support for the borough’s affordable housing settlement with the Fair Share Housing Center (FSHC). Bob Conley and Maureen Byrne are running for reelection in 2019; Rachel Ehrlich is running for her first term on the borough council.

The settlement includes the proposed construction of 40 affordable housing units on 2.2 acres within the Madison Recreation Complex (MRC) property off of Ridgedale Avenue. The borough’s settlement with the FSHC was unanimously approved by the borough council and was memorialized in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the two parties on June 11. 

The candidates stated, “This settlement is good for Madison. With the agreement, the borough will meet its legal obligation to provide affordable housing for all its residents, just as it has over the past 40-plus years. Madison will continue to be accessible to families across income levels, including its retirees, commuters, and all who work and serve in town. With 50% of the units earmarked for preference to our veterans, this plan also recognizes these important members of our community.

At the same time, the borough will maintain control of development within its borders, eliminating the threat of an unmanageable, court-imposed obligation. It also grants Madison immunity from a ‘builder’s remedy’ lawsuit brought by a real estate developer attempting to force unwanted development on the borough.”

If a New Jersey town has not met its affordable housing obligations under the Fair Housing Act, a real estate developer can bring a builder’s remedy suit to impose construction of new housing that typically exceeds the permitted zoning, creating high-density market-rate housing with a fraction of units set aside for affordable housing. Acceptance of a final settlement between the borough and the FSHC would grant the borough 10 years of immunity from builder’s remedy litigation.

The candidates continued, “Like every other municipality in New Jersey, Madison has the option to voluntarily settle on a realistic plan to provide affordable housing or to take its chances on the imposition of an onerous, court-imposed obligation, along with the expectation of on-going and open-ended builder’s remedy litigation – either of which could seriously impact the character of the town and limit our ability to be responsive to the concerns we have heard from residents around environmental impact and traffic safety.  Like most of our neighboring communities, the Madison Borough Council has unanimously chosen to maintain control of development within its borders and settle with the FSHC. 

Determining the Right Number

The FSHC had originally stated in its suit that Madison needed to provide 1,000 additional units of affordable housing to satisfy its legal obligations. In response, Madison submitted a detailed vacant land analysis to show that there is insufficient undeveloped land within the borough to place that many new housing units. Based on the vacant land analysis, the parties negotiated a much lower obligation, known as the ‘Realistic Development Potential,’ or RDP that the borough will meet with a number of existing affordable units plus the proposed 40-unit MRC project.

An additional “unmet need” will be addressed through zoning overlays allowing for the possible creation of housing in the future. This would allow additional units to be provided over time through market-based real estate development in specific areas zoned by the borough within its non-historic, commercial districts.

Because the price of land in Madison is so expensive and there is no available grant money from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to pay for development as there was when the original 30-unit scattered site units were constructed in the 1980s, the only financially practical way for the borough to meet its commitment is to build on existing borough-owned property. 

And the MRC plot is the best available option.  It is borough-owned, and it is viewed favorably by the FSHC because of its proximity to parks, trails, and schools, and because  there are sidewalks on Ridgedale and a network that connects it within the community. 

We believe that the settlement with the FSHC, including the development of 40 new units of affordable housing on the MRC property, is the best option for Madison.  It allows the borough to maintain control of development within the town, creating much needed affordable and workforce housing for our veterans and families while maintaining the character of our neighborhoods. Madison has a proud history of creating new affordable housing for its residents. This settlement continues in that tradition.”

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