Cranbury: Affordable Housing is 'Number One Issue'

Members of the Township Committee listen as Cranbury Housing Associates President Mark Berkowsky makes recommendations about the use of grant money. Credits: Photo by Nicole M. Wells

CRANBURY, NJ – Coming in from the cold to the warmth of Town Hall, people arriving for the regularly scheduled 7 p.m. Township Committee meeting Monday night were shown the door.

Or, rather, had to look at it for about 15 minutes or so.

According to Township Clerk Kathleen Cunningham, the Township Committee members' decision to meet in an emergency closed session prior to the open public meeting was so last minute it didn't make it on to the meeting agenda.

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Mayor Dan Mulligan apologized for keeping the public waiting and offered a bit of insight when the door was finally propped opened.

“Affordable housing has been a big topic, (and) we were in closed session over that,” the mayor said. “We're spending a lot of time on affordable housing, that's the main thing I can say. It is our number one issue that we're working on.”

Mayor Mulligan continued by saying that, while the committee as a whole is devoting considerable time to the issue, as a subcommittee, he and Committeeman David Cook communicate frequently about it, some days even hourly.

“It's actually overwhelming,” he said.

Committeeman Cook said that affordable housing is no longer being handled or mandated by the state but instead is being addressed at the county level through the court system.

“We're getting closer to where we can settle, but, as the mayor mentioned too, this has been a struggle going on for decades … getting the numbers,” he said. “We're now down to … where it is conceivable that we'll be able to come to the conclusion of that as a nebulous, ongoing, undulating topic that it has been for a number of years.”

As the county courts and the township work out the appropriate percentage of new affordable housing stock, Cranbury Housing Associates (CHA) President Mark Berkowsky outlined CHA's recommendations about the use of grant money to maintain those units already in existence.

During the public hearing on the use of $22,737 of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, Berkowsky said that the township receives the grant from the federal government through the county.

“Our recommendation this year is basically continue what we started the last couple of years and those are HVAC heating unit system replacements and, most importantly, water heater replacements,” he said.

According to Berkowsky, today's water heaters have a life span of six to eight years before they run the risk of leaking.

“We've been very proactive (with) that because we have had a couple leaks,” he said. “Of course, in a second floor apartment!”

Specifically, Berkowsky said that CHA recommends replacing water heaters in units located on Bergen Drive and Danser Drive and replacing HVAC systems in Parkside at Bennett Place units.

CDBG funds will be released July 1, according to Berkowsky.

“CHA has been doing this for a long, long time and has been a very big asset to Cranbury,” Committeeman Jay Taylor said, at the conclusion of Berkowsky's presentation. “I just wanted to say thank you again for everything.”

According to its website, CHA is a 501(c)3, non-profit corporation that owns and operates low- and moderate-income apartments, in addition to monitoring the resale of affordable homes within the township.

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