affordable housing

By Kelly Nicholaides
for Montclair Local

The Montclair Mayor and Council approved an $18,900 contract on Sept. 4 with Community Grants, Planning & Housing LLC to serve as an administrative agency for Montclair’s affordable housing stock.

The company will oversee 129 affordable housing units built through the Housing Trust Fund located at Siena, Valley & Bloom, Residence and other locations throughout town.

The Cranbury-based company replaces the former administrative agency Piazza & Associates. The contract includes $8,150 to maintain the affordable housing waiting list of more than 3,000, town planner Janice Talley said. Additionally, the governing body approved an updated Housing Trust Fund spending plan through 2025.

“The new company will reach out to each occupant annually to make sure they still reside there. During the first year, new protocols for the waiting list will be added, including making communications in digital and online format. There’s a large inventory of units and the new company will better serve and respond to people on the waiting list. There’s also new procedures for local preference to get into certain units,” said Talley.

Montclair has 600 affordable housing units, but only 129 fall under the Housing Trust Fund. The rest were built through public money through the state’s affordable housing program and are open to residents throughout the state. They include residences at The Siena, Montclair Mews, Bay Street Commons, Montclair Residences and Montclarion II.

The upcoming Seymour Street development housing will include an affordable housing component with preference to Montclair residents.
Montclair NAACP Housing Committee Co-Chair William Scott said the waiting list of 3,000 people seeking housing from Montclair and beyond reflects the ongoing issue of too little supply for the demand.

“If you’ve got 25 affordable housing units and a waiting list of 3,000, you’re not advancing the ball,” Scott said. “Montclair has roughly 14,000 housing units, around 40 percent renters, and thousands who cannot afford the rent. Montclair renters are at the mercy of the market.”

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Effecting change through advocacy helped Montclair provide up to 20 percent affordable housing set asides with each development. The NAACP chapter has successfully lobbied for the higher percentage for some zoning areas like Lackawanna, but high rents and rent increases will continue to be an issue without municipal rent controls, Scott noted.
Montclair adopted the Housing Trust Fund Spending Plan on Oct. 8, 2002. Amended plans were approved on Aug. 5, 2009 and Jan. 26, 2012, according to the resolution.

The Council on Affordable Housing granted substantive certification to the township in 2009. Since then, the township proposed a consent order with Superior Court to permit collection and expenditure of development fees for affordable housing as indicated in the updated spending plan that projects fees and expenditures through 2025.

The new spending plan approved this week includes projected revenues of $1,203,000 through 2018. The town will spend $225,000 to rehabilitate 15 units and dedicate $182,885 to render units more affordable to households earning 30 percent or less of the median income by region.

Montclair collects developer fees for commercial and residential construction, which go into the Housing Trust Fund. The rates are 1.5 percent of equalized assessed value per house, 2.5 percent for non-residential construction. All development subsidizes new affordable units, as well as the rehabilitation plan for existing units, Talley explained.

Details of the contract with CGPG to administer the affordable housing on the 129 units include sections on affirmative marketing, household certification and affordability controls, processing requests from unit owners, enforcement, and recording of project files, inventory, bank accounts and monitoring reports on resale and rental units.

The median rent is $1,422 in Montclair. Low and moderate-income household guidelines in Montclair are $44,000 and $71,000, respectively.