Princeton Planning Board continues to discuss their response to recent court decisions focusing on affordable housing. According to one estimate, Princeton needs to build 1,000 new affordable units. At a recent joint meeting of the Planning Board and Princeton Council, there was much discussion about where new units might be added. In particular, Council member Jenny Crumiller seemed to argue that new units should not be added at walkable sites, but instead should be spread out further away from downtown.
Council Member Crumiller’s statement, which came 2 hours into the meeting, went as follows:
“Open space is important for environmental reasons and Smart Growth and walkability are good for environmental reasons, but I think all of those – in my opinion – increase inequality, because what they do, and I mean now as we’re talking about where we’re going to put a lot of new housing…it seems pretty clear that we’re going to put it near to houses that are already on very small lots, and not near people who live in, like, half-acre lots or bigger.”
In practice, Princeton’s proposals for the next ’round’ of affordable housing do not envisage adding lots more housing near small-lot homes. The largest proposed additions of new affordable units are at Princeton Community Village (40 units), on Bunn Drive; and at the so-called ‘S-2 site’, at the north end of Mt Lucas Road (30 units). This was all clearly articulated in Planning Director Lee Solow’s presentation, which can be viewed at the municipal website (or archived here).
Solow also presented figures on what affordable housing already exists in Princeton. Developments with more than 10 units are marked on the map above, with numbers indicating the number of units at each site. As shown, affordable housing in Princeton is disproportionately located away from small-lot homes, at car-dependent sites on the edge of town. In fact, even including recent development at the Merwick-Stanworth site and the under-construction AvalonBay apartments, affordable units at non-walkable sites outnumber those near the downtown three-to-one. If you rent an affordable unit in Princeton, the chances are it’s not going to be close to downtown stores and services. If we’re talking about inequality, it’s worth asking whether this is acceptable, especially when transit service is being cut and the average cost of running a car is $8,700 per year.
View the full Planning Board meeting on affordable housing below: