20 March 2008

Let's Talk COAH

By now you know that the Council on Affordable Housing has come out with their new rules for municipalities. Rules that could require Hillsborough to build 1000 "affordable" homes over the next several years.

The Hillsborough Township committee is justifiably concerned. The new rules undo the requirements contained in builders' approvals since 2004, and don't take into account land that is in any of our preservation programs.

Now the builders and municipalities and State bureaucracies will be fighting it out to determine who ultimately controls our state's future. And they wouldn't have it any other way.

While everyone is busy arguing about the details and formulas, our attention is distracted from the real issue - What is "affordable housing" and why do we need it?

At the heart of COAH there is a very noble idea - New Jersey shouldn't have any "exclusive" towns. No municipality, or region, should consist of only one type of upscale housing, thereby excluding people of moderate incomes from living in that town. People should have the opportunity of living near where they work.

How do we accomplish that? The simple answer is to provide a variety of housing choices. This is what affordable housing SHOULD mean, providing housing choices - from small one bedroom apartments to two bedroom condos to three bedroom townhouses to single family homes built in the 50s and 60s to four and five bedroom homes on quarter and half acre lots from the 80s and 90s to the upscale Country Classics and Toll Brothers developments of today.

I would defy any bureaucrat or judge from Trenton to come to Hillsborough, take a tour down Farm Road, Bloomingdale Drive, or Beekman Lane and tell me Hillsborough does not have the widest variety of housing choices in the county. We should demand that the courts re-define the meaning of affordable housing to reflect reality - and not dump on Hillsborough because we have not turned our affordable housing into below-market slums!

The builders and lawyers are winning because we have let them define the question while we argue about the details. If we want to save the true noble cause of affordable housing, it's time to go back to Mt. Laurel and start over.

No comments:

Post a Comment