Town Meeting on Affordable Housing in Princeton Tonight

HagemanHomesThe governing body of Princeton will hold a public meeting with the Princeton Planning Board tonight, Sept. 10,  to discuss affordable housing in the town and future affordable housing projects. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the main meeting room at the former borough hall, which is located at 1 Monument Drive.
Officials will discuss the housing element of the town’s master plan, litigation, the affordable housing development timeline, affordable housing goals, the town’s housing element and fair share plan draft report, and the previous affordable housing plans for the two Princetons.

Residents from the neighborhoods surrounding the former hospital site are expected to come out in large numbers to oppose building affordable housing on the Franklin parking lot next to the former hospital. The lot previously belonged to Princeton University and was recently donated to the town. The town is considering building affordable housing on the lot, but some residents want the town to put a park there instead.

Some officials and residents argue that the town should wait and see what the impact of the AvalonBay apartment project is before the town adds any more affordable housing to the neighborhood.

Prior to the public meeting, officials will meet in closed session to discuss litigation regarding state requirements for new affordable housing for Princeton. The group Fair Share Housing has recommended that Princeton be required to build 1,000 new affordable housing units over a 10-year period under new state Council on Affordable Housing (commonly known as COAH) requirements. The town is hiring three experts to analyze data and come up with its own proposed numbers for affordable units.

Towns across the state are signing on to a lawsuit challenging the requirements. Princeton probably will also join the suit.


  1. Regarding parks, around the old hospital neighborhood, there is already:
    1. A park at Harris and Guyot
    2. A park at John and Lyle, which is set to be expanded and renovated at great expense
    3. Community Park South, one of the biggest parks in town, which is set for $5 million of capital improvements.
    4. Playing fields at Harris and Valley Road.
    5. A playpark at the back of Community Park Elementary
    Add to this that there is going to be:
    6. A new park *on Franklin Avenue itself*, as part of the AvalonBay redevelopment.
    I get that ‘more parks’ is a good thing, but seriously, this neighborhood is very well served with parks and recreational opportunities. It would be profligate to add another. On the other hand, the town needs a lot more affordable housing, by state law, and to address the waiting list, which has over a thousand people on it. The Franklin lot is a highly suitable and obvious site for some of this housing. I hope Council approves a plan to add housing here as soon as possible.

    1. Isn’t is just as profligate to center all of Princeton’s additional affordable housing in just one neighborhood? Why are there no plans for such projects in the Western Section, Riverside or Little Brook neighborhoods? If the goal is to diversify the town and offer lower income families the same advantages as other Princetonians, then keeping affordable housing confined to one, already historically low income neighborhood seems to serve only those who would not welcome such housing in their own backyards.

      1. The town prepared a report to identify all publicly-owned sites where affordable housing could reasonably be located. The Franklin lot was one of thirteen sites that emerged from this report. Others included the PFARS site, which is in the Littlebrook neighborhood, and the defunct firehouse on Harrison Street, which is in Jugtown. By all means we should be spreading affordable housing around, and that’s the plan, but we do need to build where available land exists.

        1. 1.” A park at Harris and Guyot”– a lovely walk-through, where scores of kids, parents, and dog walkers, including yourself, walk daily. and it’s already threatened. Ah yes, and just one bench.
          2. “…John and Lytle [sic],” — fenced in and designed only for small children
          3. “Community Park South,” ..for active sports, not for conversation or older adults.
          4. “Playing fields at Harris and Valley Road.”– which have signs prohibiting public access.
          5. “A playpark at the back of Community Park Elementary,” — again, for tennis, basketball, and younger children. Signs prohibiting even leashed dogs.
          6. “A new park ‘on Franklin Avenue itself’ as part of AvalonBay” — it was originally designed to welcome the community, at 50,000 sq ft, It is now down to 18,000, surrounded by apartments and with nothing to suggest that it will draw in Franklin and Maple affordable housing residents, or encourage mixing.

          Consider instead a park that invites people to sit and talk, with community gardens and benches and perennial plantings, designed by the town’s resourceful residents, not the sterile minimum so far offered by AvalonBay.

          1. All things being equal, 7 parks is better than 6 parks. But the cost of adding a 7th park at the Franklin lot is giving up a prime spot for affordable housing. Given the existing recreational opportunities, housing is the more valuable and productive use in this case. The town has earmarked a remarkable $5 million for improvements to Community Park South. If Community Park is considered to somehow be deficient in its current state, the upcoming redesign should provide ample scope for correcting those deficiencies.

            1. We all want affordable housing (AH), and better yet, housing that’s affordable. But regardless of what “smart growth” advocates say, the goal of the Fair Housing Act is to integrate AH into the community, not concentrate it. We have Clay, Franklin, and Maple (to be tried in size) all in a row, next door to John Street. Let’s be more creative, let’s for instance consider housing above shops on East Nassau, which has already been proposed by Tree Street residents. Let’s work with a developer of AH, or with Princeton’s own architects. They redesigned the pool within budget; what might they do for AH? When low income rentals are concentrated, they don’t help the residents — or the town — with genuine integration

              1. East Nassau is already seeing AH above stores, at the 255 Nassau redevelopment. But based on the scale of the affordable housing issue, Princeton needs to think “Both/And” not “Either/Or” with respect to specific sites.
                Affordable housing really isn’t being concentrated at Franklin. Even with the developments you mention, and the forthcoming 56 COAH units in AvalonBay, it is mixed in among hundreds of market-rate homes. The place where affordable housing is being concentrated is at Princeton Community Village, where there is no market-rate housing, and limited access to jobs and services. PCV is set for further expansion under current housing plans. If we were to take a strong position against concentrating affordable housing, we would oppose that, and insist instead on integration into the community at sites like the Franklin lot. Again, I don’t think we should oppose it. I think we should have more housing *both* at PCV *and* in town.

                1. Sam — So far, I have responded directly to your question about housing on the Franklin lot. But our current concern is not related to affordable housing at all but to ANY housing being considered for the Franklin lot until the town has seen the effects of CURRENT development on traffic, schools, and infrastructure in general. I recognize the Mayor’s objection that no limits can be placed on the town’s willingness to comply with court orders; we ask only that this lot not be assumed to be the best place to build.

  2. Princeton needs affordable stand-alone HOUSES, not affordable apartments or row-housing crap.

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