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Brick Files Suit to Block Forced Affordable Housing Construction

The Ocean County Justice Complex, Toms River, N.J. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

The Ocean County Justice Complex, Toms River, N.J. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Brick Township has filed an affirmative suit in Superior Court in Ocean County as part of an effort to block attempts by builders to force the township to allow the construction of income-restricted housing developments in town.

Mayor John Ducey said two real estate development firms recently sent letters to the township challenging assertions that the township is compliant with state affordable housing policies and threatening to seek a declaratory judgment indicating non-compliance.

“We don’t have that position at all,” said Ducey. “We believe we have met [the requirements], if not exceeded them, by far.”

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Builders – seeking lucrative development opportunities that receive federal subsidies and tax abatements – often challenge municipalities’ compliance with New Jersey’s judicial rulings on affordable housing. The so-called Mount Laurel doctrine compels New Jersey towns to use their zoning power to provide housing for families whose income is considered low and moderate on a county-by-county chart.

The affirmative suit enjoins Brick with several other municipalities. The towns are asking a judge to declare that they are in compliance, thus nullifying the attempts by builders to bring legal action that could ultimately force the towns to approve income-restricted housing developments.

Last week, the Brick Township Council approved a resolution appropriating $2,000 which represents Brick’s share in hiring an expert witness from Rutgers University to testify in support of the idea that Brick is compliant with its affordable housing obligation. The witness, Robert W. Burchell, will prepare and defend a fair share analysis to prove compliance, officials said.

“We don’t need more affordable housing, and we don’t want it because we have enough,” Ducey said. “We’ve already exceeded it, and we’re definitely going to fight this.”

Brick operates a housing authority and is home to numerous housing offerings for elderly and disabled residents. Recently, however, some municipal officials in Ocean County have complained that the state is insisting that some towns are relying too heavily on senior citizen housing to meet their affordable housing requirements. Last week, Lacey Township approved a deal with Walters Group to build a 70 unit affordable housing rental complex with no age restrictions near its municipal building. The complex could eventually be expanded to 100 units.

“We’ve been pretty much told to build it while we have available land, or the government will come in and tell us to take our parks down and build it in our parks,” Lacey Mayor Gary Quinn said.

In Brick, there have been a significant number of units constricted for people with intellectual and similar disabilities which have kept the township in compliance for many years. Additionally, affordable units have been built alongside single-family homes that are purchased at a lower-than-market price by families who qualify due to their income. Ducey said the township has numbers to back up its assertion that it is compliance.