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Council Takes Control of CentroVerde's Affordable Housing Units

Montclair Housing Commissioners voice their disapproval with the council's move.

 

The township council will have sole discretion over where Montclair Center Gateway Project’s affordable housing units will end up.  

The council voted to give itself the power to potentially move the project's 30 affordable housing units to another location. Councilor Renee Baskerville alone voted against the ordinance. 

“All we [the mayor and council] are saying is, ‘Let’s see if something is out there,’” said Mayor Robert Jackson. 

“If something interesting comes up that seems like it ... fosters some developments in other parts of town ... and makes sense, the council has the wherewithal to say, ‘...Let’s take a look at it.’” 

The ordinance allows the council to approve an alternate plan to place the affordable housing units elsewhere in town. If no plans are proposed or the council is not in favor of them, the units will remain in CentroVerde.

“We’re trying to give [the developer] a chance to think outside the box,” said Councilor Rich McMahon. 

The 3.3-acre, six-story development is located between Orange and Valley roads. The nearly 330-unit project, also known as CentroVerde, is in the 3rd Ward.

By law, 30 units -- 10 percent of the development's overall units -- are required to be reserved for affordable housing.

Allowing the developer to move the affordable housing units off-site may allow the township to more equitably place those units in Montclair’s four wards, said the mayor and council. 

“We have a 15-plus year history of abject failure of spreading affordable housing throughout the township,” said Jackson. “That’s undeniable.”

Affordable housing in town is primarily located in the 3rd and 4th wards, which have 117 and 545 units, respectively. The 1st Ward has none, and the 2nd Ward has only eight.

The ordinance gives the council “flexibility,” said Councilor Sean Spiller. “We need that flexibility because the numbers don’t lie in this instance. You look at the breakdown for where all the affordable housing is, and it is not spread out through the township.” 

While Jackson confirmed there are currently no proposals to place the units elsewhere, he did not see that as a problem at this time. 

“So right now, [the affordable housing units] will be in CentroVerde,” Jackson said.  

Housing Commissioners Want Affordable Housing to Remain in CentroVerde 

Members of the Montclair Housing Commission spoke against moving the affordable housing units out of CentroVerde. 

The ordinance opens the door for creating “exclusively luxury apartments” that exclude the affordable housing units altogether, suggested Housing Commissioner William Scott. 

Chair of the Housing Commission Tessa Schultz said there are few other locations in town that offer the amenities and opportunities found at CentroVerde. 

"We are ... against removing affordable housing from a redevelopment that is conveniently located near transportation, schools, shopping, religious centers. Everything we strive for in affordable housing is right here." 

“It’s an opportunity for people to be in newer housing central to very necessary amenities,” added commissioner Deirdre Malloy.

Jackson said that he and the council are committed to affordable housing in Montclair, and added that the commissioners were being myopic in their reasoning. 

“You are telling us to preclude creativity,” said Jackson. “... Because if you don’t want to do it here or you don’t want to try it or give the opportunity, you’re saying, ‘Let’s eliminate, let’s preclude the possibility that somewhere down the road, someone might have the creative approach that may satisfy affordable housing.’” 

darlina edmondson December 12, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Thank you very much Mr. Africk for the information. How do I get my family on that list?
Carl Ben Witzig December 12, 2012 at 08:21 PM
The "affordable housing" will not be solved by forcing a few unitson contracotrs trying ot make a profit, shifting the cost of market rate units upwards to accommodate the subsidizing of the "affordabhle" units. Such short term solution is a lazy way out of a true natioanl problem. I doubt the courts had in mind that the restof a community woiuld foot the bill for the result of shrinking incomes from wages, dwindling housing stock from lack of new construction. The courts probably hoped the communitiues would make "affordable" the derelict and substandard propertties within their borders, thereby improving housing opportunities and ridding themselves of the would-be slums. The surely did not anticipate an easy way out of forcing all new construction to reserve a few under-market, give-aways, shifting the burden to the rest of the community and to the small businesses trying to make a profit.
Deirdre Malloy December 12, 2012 at 08:55 PM
The point that is being raised is NOT at all against dispersing affordable housing (AH) throughout the township. Frankly the management of AH needs a 21st century look-at, I agree. Dispersing AH in other wards, besides the 4th ward is something all are interested in. The challenging question is WHY move it from CentroVerde? No one is asking the Council to hold off on any "Possibilities". The Housing Commission (HC) is comprised of intelligent real estate experts and other intelligent concerned citizens focused on the fair share of AH and other public concerns relating to all types of housing. There is no extra fee or cost to having a HC/ Commissioners to the township. As such, the HC is a collaborative advisory body. In my opinion, the HC's perception-is-not-at-all-myopic. It is a knowledgeable body of the matter at hand. If only snippets of information are shared, I can understand why one might assume this important body of Commissioners might be perceived as such. To the contrary, the concern is preserving AH within this one project as it is currently. It is agreed that AH should be shared in other wards. It would be helpful if all are mindful that everyone has a right to their own opinions-provided all facts and details are at hand. While it is true the Mayor and Council can do exactly what they choose. The hope and goal really should be focusing on working together for the betterment all. I believe that's what everyone involved on this matter truly wants to happen.
Cary Africk December 13, 2012 at 12:26 AM
I would start by calling Janice Talley, who is the Director of Planning. At one time Affordable Housing efforts were handled, in an exemplary fashion by our own, local HomeCorp which has, and is doing so much for our community! These efforts are now being handled by another firm which was given to them by the prior council. This organization is in South Jersey. In any event, Janice should be able to point you in the right direction.
Kay Spiessl December 13, 2012 at 03:08 AM
How does one get on a list for affordable housing? I'm in need of something with central air, as I have COPD - Thank you for any information you can provide.

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