Fair Share Housing & COAH Lawsuit

Recently, letters were distributed regarding the new housing developments slated to come to Delran as the result of the settlement of the lawsuit filed by Fair Share Housing, a Cherry Hill based Non-Profit.

Brief History of Council On Affordable Housing

(Excepted from Courier Post article)Celeste E. Whittaker, Cherry Hill Courier-Post Published 11:44 a.m. ET Oct. 13, 2018

“This stems from the Mount Laurel doctrine, a court ruling prohibiting municipalities from engaging in zoning practices that exclude low-income residents from attaining affordable homes.  In rulings in 1975 and 1983, the state Supreme Court “declared that municipal land use regulations that prevent affordable housing opportunities for the poor are unconstitutional,” according to the Fair Share Housing Center website.

The Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) was created to implement the Fair Housing Act, but more than three years ago, the state Supreme Court ordered municipalities to draft new affordable housing plans because things had slowed to a crawl over the years.

A March ruling by Superior Court judge Mary C. Jacobson in Mercer County stated municipalities must take steps that could allow for about 155,000 affordable housing units to be built in the state in the next decade.

Hundreds of towns across the state — including Medford, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, Cherry Hill, Winslow, Harrison, Maple Shade, Delanco, Edgewater Park, Willingboro and Florence, among others — also have reached settlements with the Cherry Hill-based nonprofit.”

Delran Lawsuit

For the last 10 years, Township Council has been adamant about preserving open space and working to focus any new housing on age-restricted housing to lessen or eliminate the impact on the schools.

This lawsuit was attempting to add between 827 units of additional new, low-to-moderate income homes.

Typically, low to moderate income homes are 20% of the number of units built in a new, larger housing project.  On the low side of that estimate, that would equate to over 4,135 new homes in Delran! We currently have approximately 6,436 homes in our town and could not handle adding more homes that would equal approximately 64% of the current number of homes in Delran.

Town Council negotiated with Fair Share Housing, all of the developers (called “interveners” by the legal system) who lined up to build all these homes, and the court’s Special Master to settle the suit. Our goal was to fight to reduce those numbers to something that was more reasonable, considering our available vacant land. 

Important note: Council cannot legally stop developers, who lawfully purchase land. Just as the Township can’t tell someone who can lawfully rent space to open a store, we cannot stop a developer.

Remember, this was the result of the intervention of a lawsuit. No Council member, staff or management solicited additional housing to be built, whether it was low income or market value.

The Result of the Negotiation

After numerous 4 to 5-hour long negotiating sessions, we settled the suit with Fair Share Housing and the interveners at the end of 2018.  Below are the numbers demanded in the lawsuit (blue column) and the result of the negotiations (yellow column). As you can see, we were able to negotiate down from up to homes down to 681 homes to be built.

Who Qualifies for Low to Moderate Income Housing

In addition, we would like to remind everyone that this is not government-subsidized housing (often referred to as Section 8 housing).  These homes will look like the Market-priced houses in the developments. Below is a link to the chart of the incomes that would qualify as low to moderate income in Burlington County (Region 5): https://www.nj.gov/dca/affiliates/coah/reports/incomelimits.pdf

Prior Meeting

We have tried to be completely transparent about this issue. Starting soon after Fair Share Housing filed suit, we held a public meeting to discuss this issue.

You can view the video of that meeting below. You can also view the PowerPoint Presentation from the meeting by clicking here.

If the embedded video does not work, you can view the video here.

Additional Information

This article is an easy- to-read description of the result of the agreement.