West Windsor Town Council Responds to the Affordable Housing Bill, With Council Comments


On Monday Feb 12th, West Windsor's Town Council met and on their agenda was a hot topic, affordable housing. It has been a contentious issue and, for the most part, we all agree. "We all," refers to myself, the council members and most residents I speak to. I have yet to hear from anyone who wants developers to pave over acres of land for any reason. So, here are my two cents in lay terms, and then I'll share comments from Council President, Linda Geevers and Councilman Dan Weiss, along with a summary of our Town Council's resolution. If the other Councilors wish to contribute, I will update this article.

In my opinion, it seems that nobody wants high density (market rate) housing, myself included, and there are many reasons why the thought of it sparks anxiety statewide. I attended one of the committee hearings at the state house and heard many speakers testify from numerous municipalities and perspectives. Generally, most folks are in favor of affordable housing in general, but not at the expense of ______________. You can fill in the blank. I have my reasons and towns have theirs. A couple of developers came out in favor of the legislation as is, and did not want the committee to give credence to the municipalities dire need for protections against developer lawsuits.

I participate in the process because it is my hope that New Jersey maintains our identity as the Garden State. Paving over mass-acreage to enrich the already uber-wealthy is something I will always want to fight. Where "we all" agree is that we don't need a "builder's remedy." We need a Garden State Remedy. The builder's remedy is the entire problem, to my mind. New Jersey has an affordable housing shortage of about 200,000 units. That's it. For decades we have been lamenting this problem. We have had meetings and arguments with woe and consternation. We have since built countless more units than 20k, yet, people still suffer the housing crisis while we cannot get out of our own way and build 200,000 AFFORDABLE units. Why? We could easily solve the problem if not for the "builder's remedy." This so-called remedy, aka, the actual problem, allows for builders to build multiple “market rate” units to each affordable unit. "Market rate" is also not affordable for much of the middle class, so the way market rate is defined needs some adjustment as well. It is based on median income, so if "middle class"pricing in West Windsor is based on the median income for our town alone, well, that’s going to preclude most people looking for middle-class housing and deprive West Windsor of the benefit of economic diversity.

Affordable housing should not be something to be feared. It is for people who work in our towns, Teachers and small business owners need affordable housing. Young families and single parents need affordable housing. I could not buy my own house today. Builders only want huge profits and refuse to build all or mostly affordable units. The billionaires are hungry - they demand their feed at the expense of valuable green open space, which they see as yet undeveloped land just waiting to be paved over to further enrich themselves. They turn a blind eye to the people who suffer the housing shortage and to those who drown in streets after massive storms because of too much pavement. Builders threaten municipalities with big lawsuits. They force towns into really bad decisions, like succumbing to warehouse sprawl, to avoid ending up with high density housing. I guess towns figure, if we pave it over and build it up, effectively destroying it, they can't come after us with housing, so we suffer other costly pains, like deadly traffic, flooded homes and streets and pollution. Townships feel like having a swath of open space puts them in the crosshairs of greedy developers. Greed won't rest until the Garden State is a concrete jungle. So, green space loses all of its value when reckless development comes threatening.

What will happen when every piece of open space is built? Do we tear it all down and build high-rises? Do we become Jersey City statewide? Builders are always going to want to build. They are not just going to leave when a suburb looks "done." They will demolish it and then build skyward. The Garden State is already looking like Manhattan the further north you go. Soon the Garden State will be just a memory in a history book. Is that what we want?

Townships must demand state protection from builder lawsuits. We need the power to decide for ourselves who we want to be, and if we need to build affordable housing, we should not be forced to build 3 or 4 times more units than needed so the fat can get fatter. Affordable should come with dignity and I don't buy the argument that we have to build more units so there is no stigma. When I grew up, there was an apparent variety of socio-economic classes. It was NORMAL. We cannot fear that those who live modestly will have to feel shame in the shadow of our mini-mansions. We need diversity and we need open space. Destroying open space is not the way around affordable housing, fair legislation is the way to fair housing.

In my opinion, we need our legislators to be sure that municipalities are adequately protected from developer lawsuits and hold towns otherwise to compliance. Restoring decrepit and vacant buildings should always be the first go-to for solutions instead of continuing to build new when there is so much all around to restore. Builders should never be in the position to police towns. There needs to be a clear formula and no developer should have the power to challenge the math or force themselves into the equation under any circumstance. We must stop protecting billionaire developer profits and demand a remedy FROM them, not FOR them.

The bill, A4 (S50 in the Senate) passed the House on February 12th. Here is the summary of recent changes to the bill. There is still time to affect change as it now goes before the Senate Budget and Appropriations committee before the Senate vote, possibly near the end of this month. Here is the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee contact information so you can let your legislators know how you feel. Make your voice heard! Don’t wait!

Councilman Dan Weiss offered this summary of the resolution from the meeting Monday night:

The resolution, passed by the Mayor and Township Council of West Windsor, opposes New Jersey Bills S50 and A4 in their current form, which seek to abolish the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) and establish a new process for administering regional affordable housing needs. The resolution outlines several concerns:

  1. The proposed legislation establishes deadlines for municipalities to adopt Housing Elements and Fair Share plans without adequate review or participation, potentially exposing them to legal actions.
  2. The legislation limits municipalities' ability to meet fair share obligations by eliminating bonus credits and capping their availability.
  3. It fails to adequately protect municipalities from legal challenges related to their obligation calculations and plans.
  4. The resolution requests the elimination of Builder's Remedy from the process and expresses concerns about adverse effects such as traffic congestion, stormwater management, and impacts on municipal finances and taxes.
  5. The resolution expresses opposition to Bills S50 and A4, requests continued efforts to address concerns, and calls for copies to be sent to relevant legislators and stakeholders for consideration.

Dan Weiss had these comments on the bill.

Council President, Linda Geevers had this to say:

I write this as an individual member of Council. I encourage everyone to read the proposed legislation A4/S50 and reach out to State legislators with their thoughts and concerns. As mentioned in Council’s unanimously approved resolution 2024-R073, there will be significant impacts to West Windsor not only from the Township’s Third Round obligations of 1,500 affordable housing units, but from the proposed legislation for the Fourth Round which mentions a 1,000 affordable housing unit cap for municipalities. While the Township doesn’t know at this time what our new obligation will be, the Mayor and Council will do its best to manage the explosive growth.

Such intense development will have impacts on finances and taxes for municipal budgets and for separate school budgets as pupil enrollments rise. For the Township, municipal budgetary increases will primarily be due to the need for more police, fire, EMS and DPW personnel. Again, the Mayor and Council are actively engaged in these types of conversations as the 2024 municipal budget deliberations begin in March. Other adverse impacts include traffic congestion, stormwater management, wildlife habitat and threats to unprotected farmland.

When taking all this into consideration, I urge legislators to perform an in-depth review of any methodology to be used by the Department of Community Affairs to calculate regional need and municipal present and prospective obligations. It’s important that consensus be reached on the appropriate methodology as the derived critical numbers will drive the affordable housing obligation calculations.

West Windsor will continue to be a diverse and welcoming community for all people to live, work and thrive.


Linda Geevers, President

West Windsor Township Council

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