The question of affordable housing continues to rattle around local Council Halls, after last year’s decision to give courts the power to set municipal affordable housing obligations. Some estimates suggested that NJ towns would have to allow a lot more affordable housing under this process. In response, a number of New Jersey municipalities formed a consortium to hire experts to advise them on how much affordable housing they should be building. Princeton was part of this group, and tonight, Council will vote on whether to extend funding to the project.
The agenda for tonight’s Council Meeting tonight includes a resolution described as “authorizing Princeton’s Continued Participation In The Municipal Consortium And Additional Funding Contribution”. In practice, this means giving $2,000 to the legal office of Jeffrey Surenian, who has orchestrated previous efforts to calculate affordable housing numbers for New Jersey municipalities.
Last year, Surenian commissioned Philadelphia-based consultancy eConsult to release a report, which argued that towns should not build as much new affordable housing as previously envisaged. The figures in the report were based in part on the idea that state-mandated affordable housing obligations from 1999-2015 should be considered as zero. This argument, however, was subsequently rejected by a judge in Ocean County, who ruled that the requirement under the NJ constitution to allow for affordable housing did not evaporate, despite the failure of state agencies to provide quotas for affordable housing during these years. eConsult has now issued a new report, with higher figures for affordable housing, but still arguing that New Jersey towns should be exempt from their constitutional requirement to allow for affordable housing between 1999 and 2015.
Although Governing Body members could previously argue that the Surenian consortium was intended to advise and clarify, it is now clear that the program is intended to undermine affordable housing measures through the use of spurious legal strategies. The question is: will anybody on Council vote want to be seen to be spending more taxpayer’s money on this mess?
This post will be updated when we find out.