Morristown council approves settlement to add 80 affordable housing units

Aerial view of proposed storage facility site (center). Photo courtesy of Topology.
Aerial view of proposed storage facility site (center). Photo courtesy of Topology.
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Morristown has agreed to provide another 80 units of affordable housing by 2025, in a settlement with the advocacy group that has been pressing New Jersey towns to fulfill their Mount Laurel obligations.

The town envisions spreading the units across four redevelopment projects–if builders proceed with those projects.

If they don’t get built, the town may consider meeting its obligation by working with developers to erect more public housing for seniors, or for the disabled, town Administrator Jillian Barrick said on Friday.

“I think this is a fair a settlement as we could have asked for, and is in line with this administration’s desire to see affordable housing constructed,” Barrick said of the deal with the Fair Share Housing Center. The town council approved the settlement by a 4-0 vote earlier this week.

Mayor Dougherty has sought and demanded inclusive housing, and this is right in line with what we’re doing,” the administrator said.

The state Supreme Court ruled in January that municipalities across New Jersey must build thousands of low-income housing units that should have gone up between 1999 and 2015– years when the state Council on Affordable Housing failed to provide guidance about how to comply with Mount Laurel housing decisions.

While many towns waited to see how things would shake out, Morristown forged ahead.  Some 211 affordable units already have been constructed, Barrick said, and the town has received credit for 279 units because of rentals and other bonuses.

Morristown’s settlement number would have been much larger if the town had not been so pro-active, the administrator said.

The town also is getting affordable housing credits for 21 units at the Mt. Kemble Home, a shelter for low-income women that is run by Homeless Solutions Inc.

Terms of the settlement call for that nonprofit to receive $480,000 from Morristown for construction of eight multi-family residences on Martin Luther King Avenue.

The money will come from a $1 million affordable housing trust fund created by fees the town has imposed on developers, Barrick said.

Going forward, apartment developers in Morristown will be required to designate 15 percent of their units as affordable; the set-aside will be 20 percent for new condos, Barrick said. Presently, the town mandates a 12.5 percent set-aside.

Additionally, Morristown has agreed to rehabilitate 166 existing dwellings. Much of that work is anticipated to involve low-income housing managed by the Morristown Housing Authority. Renovation programs also may help low-income homeowners; details still must be worked out, Barrick said.

Planning board Attorney John Inglesino negotiated the deal, with input from town Planner Phil Abramson, Barrick said.

At the moment, these are the redevelopment zones where town officials hope the 80 new affordable units will go:

  • Spring Street: 40 units. A massive rebuild of this area has been on the drawing board for years.
  • Speedwell Avenue: 17 units. They would be included in the next phase of a redevelopment that so far has seen construction of two apartment buildings (Modera 44 and 55) and a CVS pharmacy.
  • The Morristown train station: 13 units.
  • Morris Street: 10 units. Hampshire Realty’s proposed 100,000-square-foot self-storage center for this property is controversial; housing is another possible use for the site.

Morristown is a hot destination these days, and town officials are banking on continued interest from developers to make these projects happen. However, no applications are pending for any of them, aside from the storage center proposal, which has been dormant for months.

Another potential location for affordable housing is at Coal Avenue and Bishop Nazery Way. But it’s a real longshot, because it sits near the Whippany River in a flood zone. No viable engineering cure has been found to date, Barrick said.

One place where the town won’t build housing is an 11-acre tract it’s angling to buy from the Loyola House of Retreats, to preserve as open space.

Morristown is pursuing grants for the purchase, and has secured $500,000 from the state Green Acres program. That funding precludes housing projects on the site, the administrator said.

Margret Brady contributed to this report.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. When they say “affordable housing” they really mean taxpayer-subsidized housing.
    ALL housing is affordable.

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