The Princeton Planning Board got an update on Wednesday night about affordable housing. Planning Director Lee Solow outlined the process by which the town will need to respond to a landmark decision of the New Jersey Supreme Court from earlier this year, which handed control of affordable housing obligations to the courts. As part of the discussion, Solow described four sites in Princeton that are either zoned or planned to provide future affordable housing.
The town of Princeton recently acquired a parking lot on Franklin Avenue at Harris Road as part of a deal with Princeton University. The lot is one of several sites under consideration by a municipal task force that is preparing an inventory of potential sites for affordable housing on publicly-owned land. It is currently zoned R4-A, with an assumption that 25 units will be constructed, of which 5 would be affordable. (Note that ‘affordable’ in this sense means that the units are governed by rules that limit the amount paid to a reasonable percentage of a resident’s income.)
The second site, shown in the image above, is the empty lot next to Princeton Shopping Center at North Harrison Street and Terhune Rd. The current zoning limits development to housing that excludes people under the age of 62. The site has an area of 4.5 acres, and 11 units per acre are allowed, which could permit up to 50 units. Ten of these units would be affordable based on the town’s 20% setaside rule.
The so-called ‘S-2 Service District’ encompasses a larger area at the very north of Princeton around Cherry Valley Road, Princeton Avenue, Mt Lucas Road and Route 206 (see map above). Residential units are not currently permitted, but the planners envision that the second and third floors of future developments could be used for residential purposes, at a density of up to 6 dwelling units per acre. It is assumed that 150 new units could be added in this way, of which 30 units would be affordable.
Finally, Princeton Community Village, off Bunn Drive, which is already the site of 239 affordable units, could be rezoned to add 40 new units. This site is already 100% affordable, so all of these new units might be affordable.
Development of these four sites is necessary to reach the 358 affordable units aimed for by Princeton’s 2008 Fair Share Plan. 238 of these units are already built or under construction. But the 2008 plan was based on a ‘Growth Share’ formula that was rejected by the NJ Supreme Court. According to an analysis prepared by housing expert David Kinsey for Fair Share Housing Center, Princeton ought to be building 660 units- almost double what was previously envisaged. The exact new figure will probably be determined by a judge, but if it is higher than the 358 units already included in the previous housing plan, more ways to provide affordable units will have to be identified.
Princeton is faced with a philosophical decision: how much affordable housing should we propose to build? Princeton could try to defend the previous figure of 358 units, potentially by joining in a consortium of local municipalities that are trying to limit their obligations for new affordable housing. Or the town could use this as an opportunity to make plans to make a realistic impact on the problem of Princeton’s lack of affordable homes. 1,900 people are waiting on lists for affordable units, and many other people who work in Princeton are ‘priced out’ from living here. This will be a big decision for the town, and for now, town officials are keeping their opinions to themselves.
The full presentation can be viewed at the municipal website here. A video of the meeting can be seen below:
Are these the best sites for affordable housing in Princeton? What are your thoughts on the process of providing more affordable housing in Princeton? Should we be trying to add more housing? Have your say in the comments section below: