After adopting a third-round affordable housing settlement, the township is moving forward with a plan that would increase housing units by an estimated 11%.
Officials are preparing the township for an additional 681 housing units, including 186 low-income units and 495 fair-market-value units.
Some of the units are to be built on privately owned land while others are planned for the former Abrasive Alloy site on Rancocas Avenue, which is owned by the township. More than half of the low-income units are to be age-restricted.
In all, the agreement stipulates:
- Chester Avenue development: 265 units on Chester Avenue across from Holy Cross Academy, with 212 homes at fair-market value and 53 as affordable housing
- Atlantic Delta development: 240 units near Home Depot, just west of Route 130, with 192 homes at fair-market value and 48 as affordable housing
- Delran land: 111 age-restricted units on the former Stellwag property, on Hartford Road, with 91 at fair-market value and 20 as affordable housing
Former Abrasive Alloy site: 65 units, all affordable, on township-owned land along Rancocas Avenue, to be developed by an affordable-housing developer
Currently, Delran has 6,436 housing units, according to the township.
Officials emphasize the settlement was successful in significantly lowering the township’s requirement from the 4,135 units initially demanded by the Fair Share Housing Center, a nonprofit advocacy group.
Council President Gary Catrambone acknowledged the new housing units will “certainly have an impact on the township” but said the settlement mitigated a proposal that otherwise would have been “catastrophic.”
“It is hard to be happy with over 600 new homes coming to town when we weren’t looking for any additional housing. But, I am happy that it is not over 4,000 homes being built,” Catrambone said in an email Wednesday.
Catrambone also noted that negotiations were complex.
“Remembering that the affordable housing requirement is constitutionally mandated in New Jersey, our goal was to settle the lawsuit with the least impact on our current residents. We had to negotiate with the three interveners: Fair Share Housing, Atlantic Delta and Chester Avenue and satisfy the court’s special master who sat in on the negotiations. This four sided negotiation was certainly complicated,” Catrambone said. “Ultimately, our goal was to do this while getting the total number of new homes to be built to the lowest number possible and have as many units as we could be age restricted to lessen the impact on our schools.”
But, despite the decreased numbers, some residents have said they are concerned about the impact, particularly to the local school district.
Board of education member Amy Rafanello at a meeting earlier this summer said the board shares those concerns.
“There definitely will be an impact to the schools. The schools already are at capacity,” Rafanello told the township council. “The question is, who is going to pay for the additions to the schools?”
In 2015 the state Supreme Court majorly changed affordable housing when it ordered lower courts to enforce affordable housing compliance, a task that previously fell to the state Council of Affordable Housing. The Supreme Court mandated the takeover after determining COAH failed to craft adequate affordable-housing regulations and quotas.
Delran came into conflict with the Fair Share Housing Center, which was a party to the Supreme Court action, after it told the court that it only had enough vacant land to develop 44 affordable units. The Fair Share Housing Center disagreed and intervened in the court case — as it did in most cases throughout the state — arguing that officials had omitted large tracts of land which would allow for the development of additional affordable housing units, including the Stellwag Farm property.
Last September, the council approved adding affordable housing to what is now called the Stellwag Farm redevelopment plan and entering into a five-year tax abatement agreement with the developer of the project.
In early July, the township council voted to endorse the housing element plan based on the terms of the settlement agreement. The council also approved an affordable housing spending plan; appropriated funds for affordable housing in case of a funding shortfall; and adopted an affirmative marketing plan.
Despite these developments, construction is unlikely to begin anytime soon, according to Catrambone. The third-round affordable housing numbers reflect development from now through 2025.
“The potential look, feel, size and shape has not even been presented to the township planning board, who will be the first board who sees the proposals,” Catrambone said. “Also, Atlantic Delta and Chester Avenue have not even purchased the land.”