WESTFIELD, NJ — Westfield’s Town Council unanimously approved an affordable housing development fee ordinance during its regular meeting Tuesday night.
“This ordinance this evening will spare the Westfield taxpayers the burden of paying for the town’s affordable housing compliance costs,” Councilman Sam Della Fera said just before the vote.
The ordinance is based on the state’s model ordinance with only minor deviations, Westfield Town Planner Don Sammet said at last month’s planning board meeting. The move to establish a trust fund for affordable housing projects comes three years after the town repealed the third round COAH rules, which had previously accomplished a similar goal.
The development fee will be collected for both residential and non-residential projects based on a percentage (1.5 percent for residential units, 2.5 percent for non-residential units) of equalized assessed value. According to the state’s model ordinance, equalized assessed value is “the assessed value of a property divided by the current average ratio of assessed to true value (24.62) for the municipality in which the property is situated,” Sammet had said.
According to Sammet, exceptions to this fee include any homeowner looking to make an addition or improvement to a one- or two-family dwelling, homes that are destroyed by natural disaster, non-profit hospitals, places of worship and schools.
“Costs of this affordable housing obligation include not only legal fees, but we have to market these units once they’re built, we have to manage the units once they’re built, we have to monitor that the folks living in these units are qualified to live in the units and, unsurprisingly, that all costs money,” councilman Sam Della Fera said at the planning board’s meeting. “It was either going to be the taxpayers of Westfield who paid for it, or passing those costs on to the developers.”
The ordinance is not effective until final approval by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.
Della Fera has said in the past that no taxpayer money is being used to fund any of the apartments currently being built in town.
“That is all private investment,” he said. “There are funds available from the prior fee charged to developers to cover the affordable housing costs incurred by the town to date, but that fee was repealed as part of the affordable housing litigation resolution, and those escrow funds are dwindling. The new development fee ordinance takes its place so that taxpayers will continue to avoid footing the bills relating to the affordable housing obligations imposed by the state.”