2012-08-02 / Front Page

Boro commits $2M in affordable-housing funds

Council allocates trust funds to housing projects to avoid funds transfer to state
BY NICOLE ANTONUCCI
Staff Writer

EATONTOWN — Borough officials have updated the affordable housing trust fund spending plan to ensure that the municipality doesn’t lose approximately $2 million in affordable housing trust funds to the state.

“Basically we are trying to reaffirm with COAH [Council on Affordable Housing] that we have legitimate uses for funds that we anticipate or do have on hand, and they accept that these are committed funds and not uncommitted funds,” George Jackson, borough administrator, said in an interview on July 26.

“It’s our position that we have committed uses for all our funds.”

Mayor Gerald Tarantolo explained at the July 25 Borough Council meeting that Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would provide a two-year extension to the time period for municipalities to commit the funds.

Under the state’s affordable-housing regulations, all uncommitted funds that had been in municipal coffers for more than four years would have been transferred over to a state general fund on July 17.

On July 13, representatives of the Fair Share Housing Center — an affordablehousing advocacy group — and the New Jersey State League of Municipalities appeared before the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division to try to prevent the state from reclaiming affordable-housing funds, arguing that COAH had never definitively explained to municipalities what qualifies as a commitment of funds.

The court decided that COAH could not take control of a municipality’s affordable housing funds without first notifying the town.

The court’s ruling also required COAH to provide municipalities the opportunity to appeal any decision before the funds could be transferred.

Tarantolo explained that Eatontown received a letter from the state indicating that approximately $960,103 in the fund had not been committed.

“The substance of this letter indicates that as of Aug. 15, the state will have the authority to come to the borough to abscond the funds that we don’t have committed in our COAH account,” Tarantolo said.

“Fortunately, we took corrective action a while back anticipating this, and through our planner we have now identified all of the funds and how they would be utilized.”

In June, the Borough Council authorized Richard Cramer, municipal planner, to update the affordable-housing trust fund spending plan at a cost of $3,500.

On July 11, the Borough Council adopted a resolution to submit the plan to the state Department of Community Affairs, which has jurisdiction over COAH.

“The possibility of the state taking any of those funds is very remote,” Tarantolo said.

The affordable-housing trust fund includes development fees, payments from developers in lieu of constructing affordable units on-site, barrier-free escrow funds, rental income, repayments from affordablehousing program loans, recaptured funds, and proceeds from the sale of affordable units.

Jackson explained that the spending plan also includes anticipated revenues from upcoming developments such as Weston Landings.

“The Weston Landings project is going to make payment in lieu of $600,000 … that was a negotiated settlement for affordable housing in lieu of those affordable units.”

The largest anticipated project outlined in the plan is the expansion of Meadow Brook, a senior housing development on Wyckoff Road, in the amount of $1.5 million,

Jackson said.

Approximately $394,000 will be used for the rehabilitation of homes throughout the borough, and another $250,000 will be allotted for the Pine Tree Mobile Home Park, he said.

The municipality will use $250,000 to rehabilitate a vacated building on South Street, which was previously used for Spring House, a transitional housing program for homeless women and children.

“There is another group that may take it over,” Jackson said.

According to Jackson, the projects outlined in the spending plan are not new.

“These were uses that we had planned on, discussed and approved by resolution for some time now,” he said.

“The only new thing is that we have to go back and request that they are recognized by the DCA and COAH so that they don’t take the funds that we have committed to these uses.”

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