Brick, bucking a trend that has forced neighboring communities to construct thousands of low-income housing units, has reached a settlement with a housing advocacy group that states the township will not have to allow more units to be constructed.
The township council approved the settlement with the Fair Share Housing Center – the group behind enforcing the so-called Mount Laurel doctrine – Friday morning. Mayor John Ducey said the township had been in mediation with the group since last year. Initially, the center argued Brick should build more than 2,500 new units of affordable housing, but in the mediation process, the township was able to successfully counter that it already had enough affordable housing when the amount of buildable land is taken into account.
The township was able to reduce its affordable housing obligation to under 100 units, which is exceeded by the number of units currently available. The net impact is that zero new units are required to be constructed.
“We are confident that Brick Township has fulfilled our Mount Laurel obligations,” said Ducey. “This agreement essentially confirms that and places our number at zero.”
The Mount Laurel decision stems from a series of court cases under which the state Supreme Court ruled towns must use their zoning power in an affirmative manner to create residential living opportunities for moderate and low-income citizens. Affordable housing advocates have said their efforts are aimed at giving an opportunity for lower and middle income families to afford to live in various parts of the state that unfairly use their zoning power to block high-density or smaller, more affordable units to keep out those with low incomes. Those opposed to the Mount Laurel doctrine argue that high-density housing leads to higher school taxes, crime issues and is a detriment to the environment due to overbuilding.
The settlement agreement is subject to court approval. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Jan. 4.
“It will be substantially complete at that time,” said Township Attorney Kevin Starkey.
Ducey said the township has a commitment to affordable housing, which “shows in the number of scattered site housing, housing for low-income seniors and housing for people with special needs in Brick Township.”