Thursday, July 10, 2008

Facts About Middletown's COAH Obligations

 I recieved this email today from Matt Morehead, Chairman of the Monmouth County Young Democrats, it explains some of the facts behind Middletown's obligation under COAH.
Thanks Matt for passing it on.

To all:
There are a lot of misconceptions going around about Middletown and its COAH obligations. Where I understand the fears that many of you have about how this issue will impact this year's campaign. I am writing to fill you in on some real facts about Middletown and its fair share obligation.

Middletown will not have to build 8,000 units of affordable housing. This number that the mayor has been throwing around is total not true. You would only do this if you add together all three rounds of our obligation together and times it by a factor of 4. As we all know Middletown has built and signed RCAs (Regional Contribution Agreements) for many of its round one and two fair share obligations already. The problem that Middletown is having with round one and two is that they are short on the construction of a good number of these units and they have not funded a portion of their RCAs at the same time. When the new rules take effect the RCAs that Middletown has not paid for most likely will come back to the town. When this happens our total obligation will be somewhere around 800-900 units 

You do not have to build affordable housing at a 4 to 1 ratio of market rate to affordable. You have the ability to build developments that are 100% affordable. The town can do this, a developer can do this, or a nonprofit like HUD can build it. The only one of these three that impacts the tax payer is if the town chooses to foot the bill for the construction. There is also a trust fund set up to help with the cost of this construction (though Middletown has made it so it does not currently qualify for these funds because of past practices). You have the ability to attract privet companies to build managed care facilities like nursing homes, facilities for mutably handicapped people, and group homes. If I remember right these also count as one and a half credits per room. Also most of these put no children into the school system and will have little if no cost to the tax payers on that end.

These obligations do not come totally from a Supreme Court ruling. In 1975 the Supreme Court handed down its Mt. Loral dissension that stated that every municipality has the responsibility to provide a realistic expectation of its regions affordable housing needs (present and future). When towns were not responsive to this ruling  the New Jersey Legislature was forced to act. In 1985 the Fair Housing Act was signed into law by Gov. Kean (who ironically enough was a Republican).This law made affordable housing a constitutional obligation and also created COAH (The Commission On Affordable Housing). This group was charged with creating the guidelines for every municipality in the state and making shore that they were met. This group also monitored the progress of this process and has the ability to find towns noncompliant. If a town falls under noncompliance they are left open to developers to build anything they wish as long as they build at least 20% of the development as affordable. This is done thru a builders remedy lawsuit. With this the courts decide how the town is developed not the planning board. Towns that are noncompliant also can get no state grant money. The first questions on the applications for state money is, are you COAH compliant?

Middletown is not totally compliant. Middletown is on the verge on becoming noncompliant. The town has not totally lived up to the law. The town falls short in its round two plan and has not funded all of its RCAs. This is why the town is facing a big problem. They have had 23 years to fulfill their obligation. Now with about ten years left they are finding that they may not be able to fulfill there obligation in a proper manner. The town has spent it time and our money instead on costly legal battles that have all ended in defeat (on a side note all this tax money has gone in the pockets of our townships attorneys and the townships special attorney for COAH).

Middletown was ordered to repay a trust fund setup to offset the cost of the construction of affordable housing. The town was allowed to tax developer and companies to lessen the burden on residents to construct affordable housing. They were to put this tax money into a trust fund which was monitored by COAH. COAH found that the town over spent this money on administration, on what is essentially a checking account . The town was then ordered to repay over $82,000 to the account. This means that over $82,000 was shifted to the residents of Middletown if they actually paid the money back . This is also most likely why the town does not qualify for state money for affordable housing.

Matthew Morehead
Chairman- Monmouth County Bayshore Young Democrats

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