*Please note: This is a living document. We will add to it as other questions arise and updates are made to various projects.
You may have heard (and seen while driving around town) that there are a series of new developments coming to town. These developments all include Affordable Housing units to keep the Township in compliance with state-mandated affordable housing requirements. The most common questions we hear are:
What development is coming to town?
Why is this happening?
When will these developments be built?
What’s the difference between “Affordable Housing” and “Low-Income Housing”?
Read on for some straight information from the Township about proposed, approved and under-construction developments in Berkeley Heights.
What Developments are Proposed, Approved or Under Construction in Town?
The Berkeley Heights Affordable Housing settlement with the state includes these proposed, approved and under-construction developments (full details on website here):
Berkeley Crossing - “Berkeley Florist” - 663 & 665 Springfield Ave & 88 River Road (PILOT)
45 Rental Units (8 AH), 4,300 sq ft Retail Space
Status: Planning Board approved.
The Terrace at Berkeley Heights “Movie Theater” - 450 Springfield Ave (PILOT)
20 Rental Units (3 AH), 4,000 sq ft Retail Space
Status: Under construction
Stratton House “Kings/ NY Mart” - 434 Springfield Ave (PILOT)
Former Hotel Property “open lot next to Delicious Heights , Near old Kings/NY Mart”
Millcreek “Spatz” - 91 Lone Pine Drive (PILOT)
Woodcrest at Berkeley Heights “Locust Ave near old community pool” - 100 Locust Ave (PILOT)
196 age-restricted (55 and older) Rental Units (29 AH)
Developer installing the traffic light at the Snyder/Locust/Hamilton Ave intersection
Status: Under-construction (Dec 2019)
Toll Brothers Luxury Townhomes “Hamilton Ave/Little Flower” - 110 Roosevelt Ave
67 Carriage Homes and Condos (20 AH)
Status: Planning Board Hearing (Feb 2020)
Rough anticipated start date (July 2020)
Elite Properties Project “Vito Mondelli’s”- 182 Plainfield Ave (PILOT)
Connell - Connell Drive
Why Did the Township Approve These Developments?
These developments are a direct result of a settlement Berkeley Heights Township reached with the NJ State Court. In the Fall of 2017, Union County Superior Court provided the township with a Judgment of Compliance and Repose (JOR) approving the township’s Fair Share Plan with regard to the township’s strategic plan for affordable housing. This plan agreed to provide a minimum number of affordable units mixed in with market-rate units over a certain number of years. The court was very complimentary of the township and considered Berkeley Heights to be a role model for other towns.
The settlement was reached to make Berkeley Heights compliant with state affordable housing mandates. With the JOR, the town gets blanket protection of lawsuits from builders. In 1983, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued its ruling in Mount Laurel II that allowed builders to come in and file “builder’s remedy lawsuits” that can force towns to permit high-density developments to enable towns to achieve their affordable housing numbers in conformance with the Mount Laurel decision. That previous decision, made in the 1970s by the courts, essentially stopped towns from shutting out lower-income residents through exclusionary zoning.
Click here for a historical recap of affordable housing litigation and the resulting actions taken by the township.
Increased Affordable Housing Coming to Berkeley Heights (and every town in NJ)
New Jersey is one of the highest cost of living states in the nation. The concept of “affordable housing” was developed to enable low-to-medium income families to afford to live in communities where they work and where market price housing would typically be out of reach.
Technically, the State of New Jersey defines “affordable housing” as housing units that are not sold or rented at market price but instead are only made available to residents with income levels lower than what the State defines as able to reasonably afford market price housing units. Affordable housing units are incorporated into larger housing complexes. Under current law, there is supposed to be no noticeable exterior difference between a market-value unit and an affordable one.
Is “Affordable Housing” the Same as “Low-Income Housing”?
No. The State breaks down affordable housing into three income ranges using what the median family income was in 2009. In Union, Morris, and Sussex Counties, the State uses Essex County’s median income, based on federal government’s income data.
2009 Median Income in Essex County: $87,600
1 Person - Annual Income
Family of 4 - Annual Income
“Very Low” (30%)
What Does “State-Mandated” Mean? Do Other Towns Have State-Mandated Affordable Housing?
Since 1975, all New Jersey communities have been required to produce a plan to enable affordable units to be built (called Mt Laurel decision). Some communities didn’t comply with the court’s decision, so the courts intervened in 1983 (Mt. Laurel II) and again in 2014 (Mt. Laurel III) to ensure communities complied with their affordable housing requirements.
In short, yes, all NJ towns are required to comply with state affordable housing mandates, not just Berkeley Heights.
Berkeley Heights & the Affordable Housing Settlement
In 2017, Berkeley Heights negotiated an Affordable Housing settlement with the State, significantly reducing the number of the originally mandated Affordable Housing units required. That settlement takes into account existing Affordable Housing already in place in Berkeley Heights, further reducing the number of units that will be required to be built.
There are now a number of new housing developments currently in various stages--proposed, approved, or under construction -- to keep Berkeley Heights compliant with the negotiated settlement with the State. Each development includes about 85% market rate units and about 15% affordable units. Residents should keep in mind that just because housing is approved, it doesn’t mean that the developer will build it. The township’s responsibility is to provide the zoning for the developments to be built.
These developments are being built by private developers; they are not being built by the Township of Berkeley Heights. Each development includes an affordable housing component to keep Berkeley Heights in compliance with the state-mandated settlement. However, the Township has been working - and will continue to do so - with each developer to ensure our residents receive some benefit from each project. For example, the developer of Vito Mondelli’s property will be creating a passive park for public use, while the developer of the King’s property will be providing some commuter and public parking spaces.
The Township website has an updated map and summary of the status of Planned and Proposed Developments in Berkeley Heights. This summary includes information about the Affordable Housing included in each development.
How to Apply for Affordable Housing in New Jersey
For information on how to apply for Affordable Housing in New Jersey, visit the website of CGP&H, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs approved Affordable Housing Administrative Agent (www.affordablehomesnewjersey.com). Click here for more information on our website.
What are PILOTs and What Do They Have to Do With These Developments?
Under a PILOT agreement, a redevelopment project is exempt from paying traditional real estate taxes on the project, once completed. Instead, the owner of the redevelopment project is required to make a Payment-In-Lieu-Of-Taxes (PILOT). To qualify for a PILOT, the redevelopment project must demonstrate that without the PILOT, the project would not be built, because it would not be financially viable. This allows a municipality to ensure that it is receiving sufficient tax revenue necessary to pay for the increased cost of municipal services (fire, police, roads, etc) that may result from the project. The municipality receives 95% of every PILOT dollar paid under a PILOT agreement. By contrast, in Berkeley Heights, the Township only receives approximately 18% of each conventional tax dollar paid. It is important to note that the PILOT only begins upon completion of construction. Prior to that point, the redeveloper is paying full conventional taxes on the property and improvements.
What is a “Redevelopment Project”
Redevelopment is defined as: “A process to rebuild or restore an area in a measurable state of decline, disinvestment, or abandonment. Redevelopment may be publicly or privately initiated, but it is commonly recognized as the process governed by the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law (LRHL) and undertaken in accordance with a redevelopment plan adopted by a municipality. If used correctly, it can transform an underutilized or distressed area into an economically viable and productive part of the community.”