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Moorestown, Fair Share Housing Reach To Settlement In Principle

The Township of Moorestown and the Fair Share Housing Center have reached a settlement in principle concerning the township's affordable housing obligation. As a part of that settlement, the final number of affordable housing units the township would be required to build is 337, township officials said during a special meeting at town hall Thursday night.  More specifics, including proposed locations for future affordable housing developments, will be discussed during a Special Planning Board meeting on Thursday, Feb. 15.

Fair Share Housing Center spokesperson Anthony Campisi confirmed that the sides are close to a settlement Friday morning.

The number of required affordable housing units in municipalities statewide has been in dispute, and often in litigation, since 1999. In 2015, authority concerning setting affordable housing requirements for municipalities throughout the state fell on the courts.

Moorestown currently has 332 affordable housing units in the township, and a total of 7,950 homes overall, according to Housing Planner Beth McManus.

The Fair Share Housing Center, a public interest group established in 1975 to monitor, enforce and expand guidelines for affordable housing requirements, initially calculated that Moorestown needed 1,667 additional moderate and low income housing units to satisfy its third round housing obligation, according to their expert.

Municipalities have multiple ways they are permitted to introduce affordable housing units into the community, including restoring and rehabilitating existing homes in the community and by way of "inclusionary development," which calls for the development of both market rate and affordable homes.

With this strategy, typically 20 percent of the homes are low and moderate income, and the remaining market rate units subsidize the affordable homes.

For every five market rate homes, one would be an affordable home, for example. Campisi said municipalities can also work with non-profits to develop 100 percent affordable homes and that municipalities often employ various methods for introducing new affordable units to the community.

Moorestown's history has been to mix affordable homes throughout the township. It recently decided against pursuing 100 percent affordable housing on the Nagle Tract off Hartford Road in part because it didn't want to stigmatize the area with a larger 100 percent affordable housing development.

With Fair Share Housing's proposed number, the inclusionary development method would've could've added a total of approximately 6,000 homes to the township, nearly doubling Moorestown's current population, according to McManus.

This level of development would also impact demand on schools, police, fire, and infrastructure, including roads. Should the Township decide to construct the required affordable units themselves, the cost could be as much as $283,500,000.

Moorestown entered into negotiations with Fair Share Housing. It conducted a Vacant Land Adjustment, which is when a "municipality shows it does not have adequate resources (land water and/or sewer) to provide a realistic opportunity for addressing the need for low and moderate income housing," according to the applicable affordable housing rules.

Through this adjustment, the township was able to get its affordable housing requirement lowered to 606 units. The township also has an "unmet need" of 300 units that may be met with overlay zoning (a zoning option that permits residential housing while maintaining the underlying zoning).

The township also had a system of "bonus credits" in its favor. According to Campisi, there are multiple types of bonus credits that a township can apply. For example, rental housing is in demand, so a 10-unit affordable housing apartment complex actually could counts as 20 units toward a municipality's obligation.  Read More