E.B. Meeting Affordable Housing Obligations

Sentinel — Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Staff Writer

EAST BRUNSWICK — The township is not affected by a recent change in state law regarding affordable housing, according to Linda Rubenstein, the town's housing specialist.

That is due to East Brunswick's efforts to provide affordable housing within the township itself, as opposed to fulfilling the commitments by paying for affordable housing to be built elsewhere through regional contribution agreements (RCAs). During a recent meeting, township representatives presented an overview of the special programs available to residents who qualify for affordable housing.

"All cities in New Jersey are required to have a certain amount of affordable housing units," Rubenstein said. "This number changes with the growth of the town. This is to encourage all communities to be available to all income levels and all kinds of people."

Based on state Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) rules, East Brunswick must provide one affordable housing unit per five market-rate units, as well as one unit per 16 jobs produced.

Because the township's obligation is tied to its residential growth, Rubenstein said it is hard to tell how much affordable housing will be needed in the future.

But she wanted people to know the options that are already available to them, largely through the East Brunswick Community Housing Corp., a nonprofit agency that manages a low-income rental program for families.

"Market-rate condos are purchased with funding from the town, county and state," she said, adding that the units are then rented out at lower-than-market rates.

Officials are hoping to add about five units to the program per year. The township has about 40 such units in various areas, she said. Each has one to three bedrooms, and the rents are low enough for low-income families. Those income limits are based in part on how many family members are present.

She said the recent meeting was for people to understand affordable housing is available in East Brunswick, in addition to assistance in buying low-income housing.

In addition to the rentals, East Brunswick has a number of deed-restricted housing units for which the town is able to set resale prices.

"We don't anticipate adding additional units, but they do turn over," Rubenstein said.

The meeting also included a speaker from New Jersey Citizen Action, who spoke about the predatory lending practices used by some banks. Magyar Bank was on hand to describe the programs it has available for first-time homebuyers. Also in attendance was a speaker from the county's housing and community development group, who spoke about down payment and closing costs assistance.

"Obviously more people are in need of this program then we can provide housing for," Rubenstein said. "But as I mentioned before, we are continuing to buy units."

Although some towns were hit hard by a recent change in state COAH rules, East Brunswick was not because it has been "meeting the obligation all along," Rubenstein said.

"We knew there would be more required and we didn't stand still," she said.

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