By Donald Wittkowski
Even in a beach town of multimillion-dollar oceanfront homes, trendy boutiques and upscale restaurants, there will be such a thing as affordable housing.
Ending two years of litigation, a state Superior Court judge has approved Sea Isle City’s plan to meet its affordable housing obligations.
In 2015, Sea Isle sought a court order declaring that it was in compliance with the state’s Fair Housing Act of 1985 and the landmark Mount Laurel doctrine that requires New Jersey municipalities to use their zoning powers to provide affordable housing for people with low or modest incomes.
Bringing the litigation to a close, Sea Isle and the court-designated Fair Share Housing Center reached agreement on the city’s affordable housing needs. Judge Nelson Johnson approved the settlement on Dec. 1.
Overall, the plan calls for a total of 372 units of affordable housing to be built in Sea Isle through 2025. Affordable housing would be scattered throughout the city instead of being concentrated in just a few locations because of the scarcity of developable land in the resort town, City Solicitor Paul Baldini said.
“We are recognizing that we don’t have blocks of land for large-scale development,” he said in an interview Friday.
Baldini explained that affordable housing would be incorporated within the city’s existing zoning laws to “blend it into the community.”
“We think it’s a good plan,” he said. “It will integrate affordable housing in the way that the zoning is already set up in Sea Isle.”
The plan creates the “reasonable opportunity” for affordable housing to be built in Sea Isle. Developers would be given tax and construction incentives to build affordable housing units in their projects.
For instance, the affordable housing units would be taxed at a lower rate. Builders would also have the option of adding an extra unit in their projects designated as affordable housing.
“The real incentive for the developer is that he is getting an extra unit,” Baldini said.
Under the city’s plan, pockets of affordable housing units would be scattered throughout town in an “inclusionary zone” comprising many blocks and lots.
New Jersey allows municipalities to satisfy 25 percent of their affordable housing obligations by building units for senior citizens.
Baldini said Sea Isle’s plan would create new zones for senior-citizen housing in what is currently a parking lot on Landis Avenue between 58th and 59th streets and another area now used for parking on Central Avenue between 44th and 45th streets.