Letters to the Editor

Letter: Affordable Housing Legal Analysis from Berkeley Heights Administration


Dear Fellow Residents of Berkeley Heights:

At various Council meetings over the past year, we have been providing reports concerning the status of Affordable Housing litigation facing Berkeley Heights and virtually every other municipality throughout the State.

By way of background, more than 40 years ago the N.J. Supreme Court determined that the right to affordable housing is mandated by the State Constitution and that each and every municipality is obligated to provide its share of housing units to meet the need in their respective regions. In the intervening 40 years, a great deal of litigation ensued with multiple trips to the Supreme and lower State Courts to establish a framework and methodology for each Town to determine and satisfy its affordable housing obligation. The Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) was enacted by the N.J. State Legislature and an agency called the Council on Affordable Housing (“COAH”) was formed to adopt regulations governing the process. In March of 2015, all of this changed.

Sign Up for E-News

COAH had enacted two rounds of regulations prior to 1994, and many towns, including Berkeley Heights had adopted Housing Plans in compliance with those regulations. Compliance under the first two rounds of regulations included the ability to enter into agreements in which a municipality could purchase credits by sending a certain sum of money to a receiving municipality as well as the construction of units within each municipality. However, the third round of regulations, which were supposed to be promulgated in 1999, did not get adopted until 2004, at which point they were challenged by various builders’ and public interest groups and were subsequently invalidated by the Courts. After additional attempts to adopt the third round rules, further court challenges and additional decisions invalidating the rules, COAH finally “gave up” in 2014 when it failed to adopt a final proposed set of third round regulations.

In March 2015, in the absence of COAH or other legislative action, the Supreme Court decided that the State Courts would take over for COAH and implement the affordable housing program on a town by town basis. The Supreme Court required each town that was previously before COAH, like Berkeley Heights, to file a Declaratory Judgment action to get a new Affordable Housing Plan approved.

The failure to develop a reasonable Affordable Housing Plan in compliance with the law has severe consequences including the ability of developers to bring Builder’s Remedy lawsuits to force municipalities to comply. Such lawsuits often result in Courts granting high density developments in exchange for those developers agreeing to construct the municipalities’ affordable housing units as part of their projects. We believe that Berkeley Heights is well situated having complied with its affordable housing obligations at every step in this process.

Pursuant to the March 2015 Supreme Court decision, we have applied for and been granted temporary “immunity” from lawsuits as we continue to develop our Housing Plan. However, what happens going forward is unclear. Courts throughout the State are being asked to make decisions as to the number of affordable units that are required in each municipality. A housing advocate public interest group has retained an expert that has come up with astronomically high affordable housing numbers for each municipality including 858 units in Berkeley Heights alone. The Township’s expert (Econsult) has determined that in their opinion, our obligation would be 218 units. We have retained the top legal, planning and consulting experts on affordable housing matters to assist us in applying the law and coming up with a reasonable Affordable Housing Plan that meets our obligations and comports with law that is going to be developed by Courts across the State. In the meantime, we are currently in Court ordered mediation with developers proposing housing projects including those having interests in Property located on 100 Locust Avenue, the site of the former “Kings” supermarket and the owner of the former movie theatre. Additionally, the Hamilton Avenue property, the Hotel site (near Delicious Heights restaurant), and Connell have also been identified as inclusionary residential development projects which are being discussed outside of the mediation process.

For those interested in learning more, we have attached a summary prepared by our attorneys which goes into greater detail concerning the history of the affordable housing litigation and Berkeley Heights’ Affordable Housing Plans. Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and summary, and we look forward to seeing you at future Council meetings and at events throughout Town. We remain excited about the future of Berkeley Heights and look forward to continued reasonable growth and prosperity for our Township.

Click here to learn about Berkeley Heights Townhip's Current Affordable Housing Status: The History of Affordable Housing Law in NJ. 

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Berkeley Heights

I will draw on my experience to deliver a great future for Berkeley Heights

May 22, 2018

I am impressed with the day-to-day leadership of our Mayor and Town Council and I hope to help them continue to do great work. As I have been doing my research since deciding to run for a seat on our Town Council, I have learned a few things about all the work that has been happening in recent years.  For example, while plans for the Stratton House development were recently announced, our ...

Christopher Rinaldi for Town Council - Leadership, Judgement, Experience

My name is Christopher Rinaldi.  As a long-time member of the Republican Party, I am running in the Republican Primary on June 5th for Township Council and Republican Municipal Committee of Berkeley Heights.

As a follow-up to my Candidate Statements from the last two weeks, I would like to share with you a few areas of direct work experience garnered over the past 25 years that I believe ...

Redevelopment: Taking the First Step Together While Protecting Berkeley Heights

Redevelopment. It’s something that takes careful planning, foresight, the ability to negotiate for the most favorable outcome, and, of course, patience. I’m proud to say that we’ve been able to reach all of these milestones. Tomorrow, on Wednesday, May 16, 2018, we as a community will take the first step together in the culmination of these efforts, when the ...

How the Holi Color Festival Came to Summit; Event Planner Shares Her Story

May 21, 2018

Back in India, Holi was a holiday observed by almost all states. The holiday would be declared at all educational institutes and offices. It's a two day spring festival also known as the festival of colors. The festival signifies the victory of good over bad, the arrival of spring with the fragrance of flowers in the air and aura of warmth and happiness.

Holi festival is the time ...

Rain Didn't Dampen Our Vision for Art in the Park

The rain did not dampen our vision for Art in the Park!! Columbia Middle School was transformed into an art paradise, filled with an array of artists whose talents are nothing short of magical! The Peppertown Park Art in the Park Committee would like to thank all of the artists who came to our very first Art in the Park event. We are in awe of your creativity and immeasurable talents! You all ...

Mindfulness Meditation Session Begins Program on Nutrition at New Providence Library

May 23, 2018

Dr. Kavita Kewalramani, a board certified Internist at K Primary Care and Medical Nutrition Center in New Providence, will start with a short mindfulness meditation session, followed by the latest research on how mindful nutrition helps to improve your health and weight. Dr. K will also share a recipe for healthy protein bites which will be sampled by the audience, and discuss her weight loss ...

Amazon’s Career Choice program wins “Community Excellence” award

EDISON, NJ - Amazon’s Career Choice program recently received the “Community Excellence” award from the New Jersey Community College Consortium for its impact on the local community.

Steven Johnson, Amazon’s Director for Associate Development, was on hand to accept the award and lead a panel discussion on how the program provides trained, motivated employees for ...

Michelle Greco: The Logical Choice

Credentials and Expertise.  These are basic qualities that any headhunter, supervisor, manager, or hiring partner demands when looking for a new work colleague to bring on board.  

It comes as no surprise, then, that the Berkeley Heights Republican Municipal Committee (RMC) engaged in the same analysis and looked for these essential criteria to fill Republican ...

Fallout Continues from Lawsuit Against Mountainside; Police Chief on Administrative Leave

May 19, 2018

MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ – Police Chief Allan Attanasio is the latest member of the police department to suffer repercussions from a complaint filed against the borough on May 11.  Attanasio, who is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, was “placed on administrative leave,” on Thursday by Borough Administrator and former Police Chief James Debbie, said  Lt. Joseph ...

Video Shows School Board Member In Altercation With Police at Traffic Stop in South Orange

May 16, 2018

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - South Orange Maplewood School Board Member Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad got into an altercation with a South Orange police officer who stopped her for speeding last month, in which she used profanity, complained when she was issued a ticket and called South Orange Police Chief Kyle Kroll “a skinhead cop.”

Lawson-Muhammad also appeared to suggest that she would ...

Upcoming Events


Wed, May 23, 12:00 PM

Passaic River Park, Berkeley Heights

The Ducks Are Here

Arts & Entertainment Giving Back

Thu, May 24, 9:30 AM

Junior League of Summit Thrift Shop, Summit

Here Comes Summer! Junior League of Summit Thrift ...

Giving Back Green

Fri, May 25, 9:30 AM

Junior League of Summit Thrift Shop, Summit

Here Comes Summer! Junior League of Summit Thrift ...

Giving Back Green

Sat, May 26, 9:00 AM

Miller-Cory House Museum, Westfield

Aunt Carrie's Attic Sale

Giving Back Other

Sat, May 26, 2:00 PM

New Providence

Memoir Writing Workshops @ NPML

Arts & Entertainment

Thu, May 31, 11:30 AM

Canoe Brook Country Club, Summit

Fortnightly Club Scholarship Luncheon

Food & Drink Giving Back

Don’t Make These Three Mistakes About Social Security

Social Security has been around for decades and it’s not about to disappear. Why? Social Security is not an entitlement ("gift") that can be taken away - it’s a forced savings scheme that Americans pay into in their working years in order to secure a pension for life. Ideally, Social Security should not be your sole source of income in retirement but even comfortable ...