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Brick Officials: Only 22% of Affordable Housing Counted; Attorney Replaced

Gavel (Credit: Brian Turner/Flickr)

Gavel (Credit: Brian Turner/Flickr)

The attorney representing Brick Township’s interests in the ongoing litigation over municipalities’ affordable housing quotas has stepped aside at the request of the township, with an influential North Jersey firm taking his place.

Jeffrey Surenian, an affordable housing specialist based in Brielle, will be replaced by the firm of Decotiis, Fitzpatrick and Cole, a politically influential firm with offices in Teaneck, Princeton and Jersey City.

“You want to feel really comfortable with whoever your attorney is,” said Mayor John Ducey. “We just weren’t comfortable with the attorney we had.”

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The Decotiis firm has previously served as labor counsel for the township.

The new hire comes just days after Ocean County Superior Court Judge Mark A. Troncone ruled that several municipalities, including Brick, must provide affordable housing dating back to 1999, when the state stopped calculating quotas. He capped each community’s quota at 1,000 units. The Fair Share Housing Center, an advocacy group that often sues to increase affordable housing obligations, had argued Brick owed 3,000 housing credits, or about 1,500 units.

Township officials say they are being short-changed by the Fair Share Housing Center and similar intervenors who calculate affordable housing quotas under the state’s “Mount Laurel” doctrine. Ducey said as it presently stands, the groups count just 23 percent of senior citizen units and 22 percent of units set aside for developmentally disabled residents.

“If each of those numbers were at 100 percent, our [quota] would be zero, and we need the right attorney to fight for us,” said Ducey.

As the litigation has made its way through the courts, housing advocates and some in state government have said they want to crack down on towns dedicating their affordable housing quotas to housing for seniors and disabled citizens rather than low income families. Lacey Township recently approved a 110-unit affordable housing rental complex after the state indicated that too much of its housing quota was dedicated to senior citizens rather than low income families.

Ducey said “not one” more unit of affordable housing is needed in Brick, a sentiment with which residents at this week’s township council meeting agreed.

“When you have houses in town selling for $150,000 asking price, and there are foreclosures all over the place, how affordable do you have to get?” asked resident Larry Reid.

“Do they want us to build vertically?” asked Greenbriar resident Nan Coll, arguing that there isn’t enough space in town for any significant amount of new housing. “I don’t, and I don’t think other people do.”