Princeton Residents Express Strong Desire For Middle-Income Housing In Master Plan ‘Visioning Study’

‘Cottage courts’ like this are one potential form for middle-income housing. Image via

The prelimary results of the Princeton Master Plan ‘Visioning Study’ are in, and Princeton residents have identified middle-income housing as one of the key priorities that the town needs to address. Princeton’s Master Plan, which guides all municipal planning efforts, is currently undergoing a full rewrite for the first time since the 1990s. The ‘Visioning Study’ was the key public outreach effort to get feedback about the key themes for the new Master Plan. 896 people responded to the Visioning Study survey, which ran from September 15 – November 7, 2022.

Although the full survey responses are still being tabulated, the preliminary findings are available already at the municipal website at this link: Princeton Visioning Study Preliminary Results. Among the key outcomes, identified by the Princeton public, are:

  • “Ability to walk to destinations” emerged as the thing that most survey respondents appreciated the most about living in Princeton. Conversely, “high cost of living” is the thing that people dislike the most.
  • “Improving safety for people who walk or bike” was identified as the top issue that the new Master Plan needs to address.
  • “Ensuring a healthy, thriving downtown” was the top redevelopment goal identified by 56% of the public, but “expanding middle-income housing opportunities” was identified as the second-most-important redevelopment goal, with 51% of survey respondents consiering it a key goal.

The survey seems to underscore the importance that Princeton residents attach to walkability. The strong preference for middle-income housing as a goal for future redevelopment is also interesting. In recent years, Princeton has begun to build out affordable housing develeopments as a consequence of a court order arising from state fair housing laws. At the same time, aging homes around the town are being demolished to build larger new homes, which typically sell for well over $1 million. The town is not succeeding at creating opportunities for construction of smaller homes, which might be purchased by people who do not qualify for affordable housing, but are also not able to commit to a seven-figure home purchase.

In a Master Plan Steering Committee meeting on November 10, Princeton Council member David Cohen seemed to question whether the public was serious about building more small-lot homes, and whether it was even possible in a town that he called “built-out”. Earlier this year, the Princeton Planning Board member rejected a proposal for townhouses on Linden Lane, which might have provided middle-income housing. As a Planning Board member, Cohen will soon have a chance to consider a new concept for a proposed ‘cottage court’ on Ewing Street. A cottage court is a development of several smaller homes on one site, which are intended to be more affordable than building just one larger home. The proposal for the cottage court at 469 Ewing Street will be considered by the Princeton Planning Board on December 1.

Zoning for more small-lot homes like ‘cottage courts’ would be one way to create opportunities for middle-income housing. Allowing more townhouses might be another possible opportunity, although some Steering Board members argued that townhouses are multi-family housing, and not the kind of middle-income housing that residents want. These questions may be discussed again at the official Master Plan ‘Open House’ at Princeton Public Library on November 30. The event, which is happening from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m., will be the next step for public outreach as consultants work to gather input to inform the new Master Plan. The meeting will also consider other issues, including “How Do We Build a Thriving Downtown?”, “Getting Around Princeton”, and “Outdoor Living in Princeton”.

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This entry was posted in Affordability, Community, Density, Placemaking, planning, Princeton, Smart Growth, Zoning and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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