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Medford Reaches Agreement on Affordable Housing Plan

Posted by Laura Denker on November 21st 2016

By S. Joseph Hagenmayer, correspondent

MEDFORD — The Township Council has reached an agreement with an affordable-housing advocate and several developers that should satisfy the municipality’s low-income housing requirements for most of the next decade.

The council voted Tuesday to approve an agreement with Cherry Hill-based Fair Share Housing Center and four developers whose projects would include the required affordable units.

The plan, which is subject to Superior Court approval, calls for 298 affordable units by 2025, township officials said.

The affordable homes would be included in four planned developments. Hartford Square, proposed at Route 70 and Hartford Road, would consist solely of 70 affordable homes for low-income seniors, veterans and disabled residents.

The other three developments would include a mix of affordable and market-rate homes and townhouses. All three would require changes to the township’s master plan and zoning.

Court approval is required since the New Jersey Supreme Court took over affordable housing compliance from the Council on Affordable Housing. The takeover stemmed from the agency’s failure to craft rules and quotas for how many low- and moderate-income homes towns must zone and plan for.

Municipalities need housing plans certified by the court to be protected from lawsuits by developers and nonprofits forcing towns to approve low-income housing if a judge decides there isn’t adequate housing available or planned.

Since the high court’s order, hundreds of towns have been involved in litigation over the number of affordable units they need, with Fair Share acting as an intervener.

The 298 units planned for Medford reflect credits the township received from past affordable housing development and bonuses it expects from building new units.

The final number was decided after more than a year of negotiating between the township, Fair Share Housing and the developers.

The housing advocate originally argued the township should zone for and plan an additional 805 affordable units, compared with the 170 to 350 the municipality proposed. The two sides settled on 483, which was reduced to 298 to reflect bonuses and credits for past affordable housing development.

Adam Gordon, Fair Share’s associate director, said the plan employs a good mix of strategies with developers and nonprofits.

“We think this is a very fair agreement that builds on what Medford has been doing for the last 10 or 15 years to create a range of housing,” Gordon said.

Eight Burlington County towns have reached agreements with the housing advocate. In addition to Medford, Delanco, Florence, Maple Shade, North Hanover, Palmyra, Pemberton Township and Willingboro have reached settlements, Gordon said.